Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Before this season began I accepted a gig covering Knicks home games for NBA.com.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle covering both the Knicks and Big East basketball for SNY.tv. But aside from being out of the house and away from my family several nights a week, things have worked out pretty well so far.
Except for one thing.
I’ve seen a lot of bad basketball.
During a five-day span this past week, I saw Seton Hall (at Villanova), St. John’s (to West Virginia) and the Knicks (to Milwaukee) all lose.
Then on Saturday things got even worse.
The Knicks and Nets were both in action in the NBA, as were all three local Big East teams: Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John’s.
The collective result?
Those five New York-area teams lost by a combined 74 points.
The Nets dropped to 4-46 after a 99-92 loss at Detroit.
That is the worst 50-game start in the history of the four major pro sports.
Let that sink in for a minute.
In Cleveland, LeBron dropped 47 points on the Knicks, who made a valiant comeback from 20 down at the half before falling 113-106.
The Knicks dropped to 19-31, a season-worst 12 games under .500.
New York has now lost 5 of 6 and 7 of 9.
As one of my colleagues pointed out, if you have 30 losses by the NBA All-Star Break, you ain’t makin’ the playoffs.
The Knicks are hoping that LeBron — or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh — comes to the Big Apple via free agency next summer, but one free agent after another has come through New York questioning why the others would do that.
There’s a lot of pressure and media attention in New York. The team isn’t winning now. And there’s no guarantee who will even be on the roster next year.
Reggie Miller recently asserted to The New York Times that James definitely wasn’t coming to New York.
When Knicks president Donnie Walsh asked Miller directly if he knew that to be true, Miller backed down and said he didn’t.
I recently had a source tell me that LeBron was shopping for houses in Miami, so who knows?
What seems a near certainty is that the Knicks won’t make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Now let’s look at the local Big East teams.
Rutgers (2-9), St. Johns (2-8) and Seton Hall (3-7) are a combined 7-24 in the Big East.
The three locals now reside in 13th (Seton Hall), 14th (St. John’s) and 15th (Rutgers) places in the 16-team Big East.
After raising hopes with a modest two-game winning streak, Rutgers fell by 16 on Saturday at Louisville.
In a game I covered for SNY, St. John’s blew a 15-point second-half lead and lost by 19 to a West Virginia outfit that started five guys from New York and New Jersey, including former Bloomfield Tech star Da’Sean Butler, who dropped a season-high 33 points. Long Island City’s Devin Ebanks, a likely first-round NBA pick should he elect to go in June, added 12 and 10 and used his length to anchor Bob Huggins’ 1-3-1 zone defense.
That make six games this season that the Johnnies have lost after leading at the half.
In Pittsburgh, Bobby Gonzalez switched things up by bringing leading scorer Jeremy Hazell off the bench but the Pirates lost by 25 points to the Panthers. Hazell managed just 2 points on 1-for-7 shooting.
As if that weren’t enough, the AP reported that the Pirates had to hike several blocks in knee-deep snow drifts to their hotel after their bus was halted in the snow.
“I guess when it rains, it pours,” Gonzalez said. “Or, like they say, when it snows, it snows.”
At least two of these programs could be ripe for coaching changes after the season, when Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti and St. John’s president Father Donald J. Harrington will have some hard choices to make.
Do they pull the plug and absorb the financial losses associated with buying out a head coach? Can they even afford to do so?
If they elect to do so, who comes in next?
There’s a lot of talk about recycling former Division I head coaches for these jobs, and we’ve all heard the same names over and over.
Fans have gotten creative, mentioning everyone from Bob Knight to Lawrence Frank to Bob Hurley as possibilities. Frank and Hurley both told me directly they weren’t interested in coaching at the college level. It’s NBA or bust for Frank, and St. Anthony or bust for the legendary Hurley.
If, and when, Rutgers and St. John’s, along with Fordham, FDU and others, elect to make changes, they should consider bringing in some fresh young blood.
Mike Rice, 40, has done a great job at Robert Morris and could be a natural candidate for a couple locations, as Tim Sullivan of the New York Post pointed out last week.
And what about Kevin Willard? The Iona coach has done a tremendous job with the Gaels, who are 17-7 with a roster full of guys from New York and New Jersey.
But somebody, if not Fordham itself, should give Fordham interim head coach Jared Grasso a shot.
Despite the Ram’s struggles this year with a young outfit, nobody works harder in this area on recruiting than Grasso, the youngest D-1 head coach in America. Ask Bob Hurley who the hardest working assistant coach he has dealt with in the past few years was..and he won’t hesitate to mention Grasso.
St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle and St. Benedict’s coach Dan Hurley are also two young guys who deserve a shot at an NEC or MAAC school. With all that they’ve accomplished, why not give them a shot?
Nobody is saying all of these local programs can or will be turned around overnight.
But how much longer can New York go on being virtually irrelevant in the world of basketball?
(Photo courtesy Daily News)Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.