- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

Except for that "play-in" game the other night, the first winner in the NCAA tournament is St.John's coach Mike Jarvis.

If Jarvis isn't coming back on top, he is at least coming back with the No.9 seed in the East. The Red Storm exceeded preseason expectations, went 20-11 and was sent to MCI Center for the first and second rounds of the East Region. Not far away is the campus of George Washington University, where Jarvis rebuilt the men's basketball program during eight years as coach before leaving in 1998.

MCI also is where Jarvis could have worked as coach of the Wizards. Jarvis met with Michael Jordan, then the team's president of basketball operations, in the spring of 2000 and was offered the job at a reported $2million a year. But it wasn't enough, and Jordan hired Leonard Hamilton, only to fire him before the end of the 2000-2001 season.

"We couldn't have come any closer than we [he and his wife, Connie] almost came [to taking the job]," Jarvis said. "But it wasn't meant to be. I've been raised to believe that everything turns out for the best and, as it turns out, it was probably in the best interest of me and my family that we didn't come."

But Jarvis' return carries even more significance. His daughter, Dana Shaiyen, gave birth to a son, the Jarvises' first grandchild, at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring on Tuesday. It was not an easy pregnancy labor had to be induced and Jarvis earlier in the week said he was thinking more about that than any basketball tournament.

"You assume babies are just born," he said, "but right now I'm more concerned about the well-being of the mom and my future grandson."

Daughter and grandson Geoffrey Zemnaan Shaiyen, weighing in at a robust 8 pounds, 13 ounces are doing fine. Jarvis' planets could not have been better aligned if he had picked them up like basketballs and moved them himself. Or as he was told by GW athletic director Jack Kvancz, Jarvis' old boss, close friend and, coincidentally, a member of the tournament selection committee, "You're lucky. You're gonna be a grandfather, you're in the NCAAs, you're coming back to D.C. Who do you like in the third race at Belmont?"

Jarvis said he "will always refer to D.C. as home" and added, "To be coming home to participate in the NCAA tournament with a team that wasn't supposed to be here, during the week of the birth of my first grandchild … how can it get better than that? It's a blessing."

It can get better if the Red Storm beat eighth-seeded Wisconsin tomorrow night, setting up a likely second-round game against top-seeded Maryland on Sunday. In 1999, Jarvis' first St.John's team beat Maryland in the South semifinal before losing to Ohio State by three points in the regional final. The next season, St.John's won the Big East for the first time since 1986 but lost to Gonzaga in the NCAA second round.

With three tournament appearances in four years, Jarvis is satisfied with what he has accomplished. He also likes what lies ahead. Next year's team might be better than this one.

"I'd say we're on schedule," he said. "And we've [already] had a lot of success. Most teams never get to the [Elite Eight], and we were within one basket of getting to the Final Four. The following year, we had a team that could have gone to the [Elite Eight] and beyond. Two of the four years, we've had teams capable of getting to the Final Four. But do it the right way and with the total program in mind."

Jarvis, who guided the Colonials to a 152-90 record and four NCAA tournament appearances, loved living in D.C., where one of his friends was former President Bill Clinton. He said he and Connie have even thought about retiring here. But GW's conference, the Atlantic-10, is a cut below the Big East, and the money St. John's was offering a reported $750,000 a year wasn't bad, either. And New York is Jarvis' kind of town. "He's a big-city guy," Kvancz said.

It has proved to be a good fit. As the song says, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

"I needed a change," Jarvis said. "I needed to have my batteries recharged. I needed a new challenge, a bigger stage to work from. It doesn't get any bigger than New York. I never realized this city is as powerful and as great as it is.

"There's so much to do here, so many things. At the same time, you can escape here. It's been everything and more we thought it would be. We still have a lot of things to do, and that's the great thing. It's been a great season so far. You're always reminded of that. You're always as good as tomorrow, or today. I kind of like that. I don't think you can ever get complacent here. If you do, you won't be here."

Even though the program has yet to reach the heights of the '99 season, dipping to 14-15 last year before bouncing back, Jarvis has remained relatively sheltered from the intense heat and scrutiny directed toward New York's professional teams. St.John's fans are "very considerate," he said, his players "somewhat protected."

But Jarvis, going back to his days as Patrick Ewing's coach at Boston's Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and continuing through successful runs at Boston University and GW, always has conveyed a sense of being about more than basketball.

Asked what he will remember most about playing for Jarvis, senior center Donald Emanuel laughed and said, "those long speeches that he loves to give. Oh, man, he's talked about everything that you could possibly talk about. And he's related almost every part of life to basketball. He's definitely found a way to link it. He's done a good job letting us know how both go hand-in-hand."

Emanuel, who was recruited by Jarvis' predecessor, Fran Fraschilla, came in from Houston as an 18-year-old who had all the answers. It took four years, but Emanuel said he eventually learned how much he didn't know.

"As you get older, you start to see things," he said. "When you're young, you want to rebel. But as you get older, you start to see things from the coach's point of view. In a sense, Coach is kind of like the way my dad is. My dad likes to talk a lot and repeat the same things. What he feels is important, he's gonna let you know, and Coach is the same way.

"He told me a lot of stuff I didn't want to hear, a lot of stuff I didn't want to do. He definitely demands the most, but when I say he's strict, he's strict in a sense he won't let you do whatever you want to do. Let's say there's a new fad out there, 16million teen-agers coloring their hair purple. If we did it, Coach Jarvis would talk to us and say, 'OK, one day you're gonna need somebody to hire you or you're gonna be in the public eye, and purple hair is not necessarily the way to go.' He wants you to be young, but he wants you to understand people are always watching you. He gives you the freedom to be young, but he also lets us know how the world works."

A more realistic example than purple hair is tattoos. Jarvis is not a tattoo guy, and he makes it clear from the outset that any existing array of tattoos will not be expanded on his watch.

"We all signed a contract about not getting tattoos while under the St. John's program," said Emanuel, who got one while in high school. "My intentions were to get a couple more. I didn't think that would be part of the package. Now, to be honest, I don't think I'll get another one. I've probably grown out of it."

However, Emanuel said, Jarvis can be flexible. Like with earrings.

"He had a little thing about not getting our ears pierced, but he basically went back on that," Emanuel said. "That's why he's a fair guy. He'll listen to you. He didn't like that earring thing at first, but we actually talked him down on that. … But he wants us to be neat and presentable. That's how it works. He doesn't want us to walk around like a slob. He has definitely made an impact in some fashion on everybody who's come into the program."

On the court, Jarvis is "someone who will push you to a point," Emanuel said. "Like myself. He's been on my back ever since I got to St.John's. Now I'm at the point where he's gotten me to understand. It's not him, it's me who has to push myself harder. He can tell if you're not trying as hard as you possibly can. But no one knows how far the human body or that particular person can push himself or herself. He's instilled in me to always try harder, that you can always do something a little bit better."

Jarvis was amused when told that one of players mentioned his long-windedness, but he doesn't apologize for that.

"I think, basically, I've always considered myself a teacher," he said. "I've always tried to teach, and I've always had that captive audience. It's about trying to teach skills for life. My job is to try to get kids to do things they don't want to do. Like parents. But a lot of kids don't have parents, so I try to coach and parent as well. We try to do a lot of communicating."

Jarvis has no trouble communicating his thoughts and ideas regarding NCAA regulations he considers unfair. But many believe he crossed the line after one of his players, Erick Barkley, was suspended for three games (later reduced to two) in 2000 for swapping cars with a family friend, a violation of NCAA rules. An irate Jarvis likened the NCAA to the Gestapo and said he felt like he was raped. He later apologized for the remark, saying it "clearly is not a comparable situation, and I was wrong for saying that it was."

That was the only major blip during Jarvis' tenure at St.John's, last season's losing record notwithstanding. GW, on the other hand, hasn't fared so well since he left. The program stumbled under Tom Penders, who followed Jarvis and resigned under pressure last year, leaving the rebuilding to Karl Hobbs, a Jarvis protege.

The Colonials, 20-9 as recently as three years ago, were 12-16 in their first season under Hobbs, a former Connecticut assistant who played for Jarvis at Rindge and Latin and later assisted him at Boston University.

"I know for a fact GW will be back to where they were, and maybe beyond," Jarvis said. "We had a great run. But Karl has as much energy as anybody. I wish he had as much energy when he played for me in high school. He just wasn't a great practice player."

Kvancz has been friends with Jarvis since they played against each other in college (Kvancz at Boston College, Jarvis at Northeastern). Kvancz, who replaced Steve Bilsky as GW's athletic director in 1994, did not hire Jarvis. But he quickly understood what he meant to the program.

"Michael got us to the promised land many times," Kvancz said.

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