The St. John’s Red Storm are, apparently, good. The DePaul Blue Demons are, per college basketball law, the same as always. The two meet this week in a battle of Big East Conference sleeping giants, but only one has bothered to set the alarm clock.
In reality, DePaul is much closer to death than the program is a sleeping giant. Often echoed as such by college basketball pundits, the Blue Demons receive such a benefit of the doubt thanks to its location. Regardless of previous tradition, so long ago lost it belongs whispered alongside stories of Canaanites, objective experts can admit there’s no sincere hope for the program.
As for St. John’s, it’s a bit different. A once small gamble on Chris Mullin is starting to pay off. The Johnnies are ranked, have finally lived up to the annual media hype, and are operating in a Big East landscape that allows room for optimism.
How did these two schools, once so often connected as yearly what-if candidates, begin different paths in the realm of unpaid laborers and godified coaches?
Money is usually the easiest answer; though it’s not as if the Red Storm’s athletic department went out to hire a name-brand coach for $10 million a year. Nor did DePaul do anything inherently wrong in previous coaching searches, as Oliver Purnell’s tenure can be giggled at in hindsight, but he seemed fairly qualified at the time. Heck, even the uninspiring retread of Dave Leitao appeared fine enough.
Maybe it’s branding?
A combination of everything combined, as well as a circinate cycle, suggesting the two won’t forever feature one a more prominent marquee player than the other?
Eh, it’s mostly luck. Mullin wasn’t a for-sure hire like a John Calipari. He didn’t possess the modern appeal of a Penny Hardaway at Memphis. Going even deeper in this wormhole, he lacked the coaching experience Patrick Ewing brought to Georgetown. So on and so forth and none of it actually matters as to why it’s worked so far — only because it has.
Eventually, likely, it won’t. Nothing lasts forever. Time will tell if Mullin’s time at St. John’s brings the Red Storm closer to an era of sweater enthusiasts or if it’ll be similar to Steve Lavin’s every few years there’s competence routine.
Still, for this very moment, the St. John’s Red Storm are leaps and bounds better than the DePaul Blue Demons both this season as well as moving forward. Good fortune is grand.
Luck is a funny thing, honestly. Someone’s parents might romanticize a chance meeting with each other as the reason for your entire presence trotting about the planet. Could have been your father’s clunker of a car breaking down just outside the perfect coffee shop 20 or 30 years ago. Had his transmission not failed, there’s a possibility you’d never receive the opportunity to read this wildly dramatic anecdote about luck.
And yet, luck is not a fuel that can be monetized, grown, cared for or nurtured. It simply happens. Furthermore, as quickly as the infamous Lady Luck is dancing at your side, whispering sweet nothings in your ear, she can break your heart by dumping you for another, equally undeserving stranger.
That’s the silver lining in this otherwise gloomy cloud for the DePaul Blue Demons.
While it remains downright silly on the surface to pretend the two Big East brethren are forever connected at the hip, with one consistently altering the other’s trajectory, the forecast can predict a chance of sunshine with a sprinkle of luck for even the incompetent Blue Demons.
We can look at some film, recruiting classes, tout Max Strus in a way that would make Mac McClung stans blush, but there’s no tangible evidence of a brighter tomorrow. We can pretend there is, using gamed information or corrupt data, but why go on a fruitless voyage? If someone wants a good fictional read, may I recommend something by Michael Finkel?
Outside of that, well… ugh. Yeah, man. That’s it. Root for some luck. Not better decision making, coaching or circumstances. Luck over money, location or weather. Pray like hell for luck. Cheer it on as if it were your favorite college basketball program.
After all, DePaul fans, it is.
Joseph Nardone has covered college basketball for nearly a decade at various outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
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