Hoopsters Considering Jarvis

Former St. John’s University coach Mike Jarvis interviewed yesterday afternoon for the vacancy at the helm of the Harvard men’s basketball team.

A one-time Crimson assistant coach who later led three different schools to eight NCAA tournament appearance, Jarvis met for several hours in the Murr Center with a committee chaired by Nichols Family Director of Athletics Bob Scalise.

The committee, assembled following 16-year coach Frank Sullivan’s dismissal on March 5, also includes a member of the Harvard coaching staff not associated with basketball and two senior athletic administrators, according to Director of Athletic Communications Charles V. Sullivan. Charles Sullivan would not name the other committee members.

The administration hopes to have a coaching candidate chosen by the end of next week, with an official announcement released the following week, Sullivan said.

According to a report in the Boston Globe yesterday, the committee interviewed former Xavier University coach Bob Stack on Tuesday and is set to speak today with Tommy Amaker, recently fired from his coaching position at the University of Michigan. Sullivan did not confirm the Globe’s report.

Jarvis currently works as a college basketball commentator for both ESPN and Yahoo! Sports. He was fired from his last coaching position at St. John’s six games into the 2003 season, becoming the first basketball coach in the history of the Big East Conference to be fired during a season. He was let go in the wake of the arrests of two players and a poor 2-4 start.

Last spring, the NCAA placed St. John’s men’s basketball on two years’ probation and docked the school one basketball scholarship for this season because of a financial violation under Jarvis’ watch involving a member of the coaching staff giving a player monthly payments.

Sullivan declined to address Jarvis’ past, saying, “I wouldn’t want to comment specifically on any candidate, other than to say that Jarvis had been an assistant here before, so he certainly has a familiarity with the place, and then also a familiarity, being at [Boston University], with the local scene.”

“I wouldn’t get into anything that happened with him” at St. John’s, Sullivan added.

A Cambridge native, Jarvis played high school hoops at nearby Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and later coached there, where he guided former NBA superstar Patrick Ewing. He was an assistant coach for four years at Harvard in the late 1970s under coach Tom “Satch” Sanders.

Jarvis’ collegiate head coaching career began in 1985 at Boston University. He took the Terriers to the NCAA tournament in 1988 and 1990 before moving on to George Washington University, where he led the Colonials to the Sweet Sixteen in 1993 and three NCAA appearances overall. He was hired at St. John’s in 1998 to replace Fran Fraschilla and led the Red Storm to the NCAA Elite Eight in his first year, as well as two other berths in the tournament. St. John’s won the National Invitational Tournament in 2002-2003, Jarvis’ last full season guiding the team.

Harvard has never won the Ivy League, and its lone NCAA tournament appearance came in 1946.

“[Jarvis] is a great coach with a great history,” forward Evan K. Harris ’09 said. “Whenever we can get a coach of that caliber, there is nothing but positives—I just hope the administration and whoever else is in charge can make the job attractive enough for him to come here.”

Jarvis is one of several prominent black coaching candidates being considered for the position. The Globe recently reported that none of the 32 head coaches at Harvard are black. Amaker, who the Globe said will be interviewing tomorrow, and Stan Heath, the former Arkansas coach whose name was in the mix for the Harvard position until he was hired by South Florida this week, are both African American.

“I don’t think that this would be any different than any other coaching search that we would do, other than the fact that the nature of a search for a head basketball coach might normally result in a more diverse applicant pool than, say, an alpine skiing coach, which is one of the ones that we’ve hired recently,” Sullivan said.

The Globe has reported that Harvard is “scrambling to hire a black coach” after being embarrassed that none of its 41 varsity teams have an African American at the helm.

“They’re just getting the best person,” Harris said. “It’s not necessarily African American, white, Asian, Hispanic—it shouldn’t matter. It just happens that two of the frontrunners are African American, but I don’t know who else is being considered.”

The athletic administration has been in frequent contact with the members of the basketball team, who have met with the committee four times over the past month, most recently on Monday, to discuss the ongoing search.

—Walter E. Howell contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at cpeiffer@fas,harvard.edu.