Lucky Guy; New Grandson, Surprising St. John's Have Mike Jarvis on Top of His Game

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

Lucky Guy; New Grandson, Surprising St. John's Have Mike Jarvis on Top of His Game


Byline: Bob Cohn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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. …

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