FAU Big Men Look to Learn From Coaching Icon

Mike Jarvis felt like a proud father as he watched Patrick Ewing give his acceptance speech at the 2008 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts.

When Ewing moved from Kingston, Jamaica to Cambridge, Massachusetts at age 12 he was introduced by his physical education teacher to his future mentor, Jarvis, now the new FAU men’s head basketball coach. Jarvis was entrusted by Ewing’s mother to develop her son as a player and a person.

“It’s a funny thing. The reason [Ewing] got into basketball was to make friends and assimilate into the US culture,” says Jarvis. “He made friends and enemies like he’s supposed to do because nobody could beat him.”

Part of the reason no one could beat Ewing, who compiled a 77-1 record and three straight state titles while playing for Jarvis from 1979-81 at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, was because he was under Jarvis’ direction. Jarvis won’t admit to it though, “I coached up [Ewing] the same way I would coach anyone up. It was his will that made him a great player.”

Even with that will, Ewing admitted in his acceptance speech that people used to laugh at him because he was so tall and didn’t know the game of basketball or how to play it.

Ewing being nominated “speaks a lot on Coach Jarvis because he basically taught him how to play basketball,” says FAU sophomore forward Brett Royster.

Although Jarvis feels all players are different and sees no “Ewings” on this year’s team, he does see the will, hunger, and talent similar to what Ewing played with in high school, and on through a successful college career at Georgetown, and most famously with the New York Knicks of the NBA. “I like the character and attitude in these guys. I think they’re ready to win,” says Jarvis.

And Jarvis has proven he knows something about winning at the college level. He is one of eight active coaches to have recorded at least 100 wins at three different schools (Boston University, George Washington University, and St. John’s University), and once he leaves FAU he hopes to join Lefty Driesell as the only coaches in history with 100 wins at four different schools. Still, one of his most recognizable accomplishments is teaching the game of basketball to Patrick Ewing.

“How Jarvis chiseled Patrick into the player he is and was – it’s a great opportunity to learn from him,” says FAU senior power forward Carlos Monroe, who is one of five players named to the All-Sun Belt Conference First Team.

Even Ewing acknowledges Jarvis’ skill at coaching, and he indicated so in his induction speech. “He couldn’t use the full hour on his old high school basketball coach,” Jarvis said jokingly, “but he talked about how he had a good teacher for a coach.”

All the FAU big men are thrilled at their chance to play under a coach with so much wisdom of the game. “I still can’t believe I’m playing for [Jarvis]. These are the types of people you hear about on TV. To get to play for that much knowledge and that much history of the game, you can’t really beat it,” said sophomore center Justin Davis, who is forced to sit out this season because it is his first year as a transfer student at FAU from Mercer University.

Something Jarvis is trying to improve is the offensive struggles of Royster, who was last year’s leading shot blocker and third best rebounder. “[Jarvis] said I was in a rush. We are working on body positioning. Hopefully I can get coached up like [Ewing]; that’s a big thing to achieve,” says Royster.

One tool Jarvis is trying to get the big men to achieve is to use the old school sky hook, a la former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Although none of the big men have perfected it, Royster says if it works he will stick with it. But Monroe says he won’t be using it in games.

Something all the big men agree on is how well the team has gelled in such a short period of time. “We’re starting to gel better, getting team unity,” says Monroe.

The team will get its first chance to prove how well they’ve gelled in their first preseason game on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at the newly renovated FAU Arena, the Burrow, where they will take on Lynn University.