That wonderful gang of sultans ruling New York, New York, these days, is St. John's, St. John's. The Redmen are winning, so naturally New York loves them.
St. John's credentials are too numerous to cram onto one Broadway marquee: they are 27-4, ranked third in the nation and are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Regional.
Sunday, these Redmen, who earned a first-round bye, will play either Southwestern Louisiana or Rutgers upon entering the NCAA torture tank in Hartford, Conn.
"Chicago has De Paul and Los Angeles has UCLA," says St. John's senior forward Billy Goodwin. "New York has always been a big pro town. All it needed was a good college team to support and we have given it to them."
Goodwin will tell you that after St. John's defeated Boston College, 85-77, in the Big East tournament title game Saturday afternoon, came a moment of glory nonpareil.
Goodwin, who scored 20 points in that game and was named to the all-tournament team, took one of those shoulder-lift boosts from the merry mob surrounding him after the game, the kind usually reserved for heroes and kings.
Then, in one memorable instant, Goodwin was sitting on the rim of the basket, legs dangling down over so many heads. His hands gripped scissors to cut down the net, while his eyes and ears took in glory, listening to the school band play "New York, New York" and watching the many Redmen people who had covered the court, simply adoring him.
"I just sat there," remembers Goodwin, "and said, 'Wow, this is some love affair.' "
To gain an understanding of this St. John's season of soaring, you might look to several places:
You might look to individuals like Chris Mullin, sophomore guard from the Bronx, whose lethal left-handed jumpers earned him an 18.9 points per game scoring average this season as well as the Big East Conference player of the year honors.
You might look to David Russell, senior forward from Bellport, N.Y., whose driving and gliding and dunking and smiling earned him 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and oodles of ovations per game.
Or Kevin Williams, reserve guard from the Bronx, who offers bravado in a pinch; or to starting senior guard Bob Kelly and 7-foot sophomore center Bill Wennington, the only two Redmen not from New York, who offer patience and power.
Or you might look to Coach Lou Carnesecca, whose fun-loving crass and feistiness make him an itsy-bitsy caricature of New York. This season, Carnesecca led his team past the school record of 26 victories, set in the 1950-51 season. Of Carnesecca, Goodwin says, "He's a 10-foot man stuffed into a 4-foot-10 Italian guy's body. If I didn't have to look at him so much, I would swear he's a lot taller than he really is."
Or you might look to certain games, which if lost, could have made this an irrelevant Redmen season: on Nov. 20, when the Redmen beat North Carolina, 78-74, in overtime in the Hall of Fame game in Springfield, Mass., or when the Redmen twice beat Georgetown in high-intensity games in Big East play.
Or, maybe, when they defeated Pittsburgh, Villanova and Boston College last week in the Big East Tournament. With these three victories, St. John's earned the Big East's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and, at the same time, avenged all four of its defeats of this season (Boston College beat the Redmen twice).
But to really place your finger on the pulse of this team, you need merely listen to Goodwin, who averaged 14 points per game. Goodwin is the sage among these sultans.
"At the Big East tournament, I got to meet (former New York Knicks) Dave DeBusschere and Walt Frazier. I didn't get to speak to Frazier for long, but I told him that he was my idol, that I liked his game.
"Winning all these games has definitely had a special meaning," said Goodwin. "It's all the things you ever dreamed of; it's getting to meet all the people you always wanted to meet. You just feel like you should sit and talk a different way. You feel like you're somebody."
Goodwin says when he moves about New York City, inevitably comes recognition. "People even let some of us get in free to discos," Goodwin says. "Last week, my father had a high fever and a flu so we brought him to the hospital. I was sitting in the hospital and this guy wearing hospital fatigues walked past me a couple of times. He kept looking at me.
"Finally, he came over and said 'Hey, aren't you Billy Goodwin?' I said 'Yeah.' He smiled and said, 'I saw you guys last week. You guys can go all the way to Albuquerque.' "
Not too long ago, New York crowds weren't so fond of these Redmen. "Everything was negative," Goodwin says. "Now, all they have to say are positive things. It seemed like it used to be us against the fans.
"It's a combination of things that make us a good team. Mostly, it's an unselfishness. Everybody has the same goal. Nobody wants to step out and steal all the glory. We won't take backward steps from anybody. We have a lot of seniors who are running out of tomorrows."
Down from the rim and up to the No. 1 seed in the East, Goodwin added, "In this tournament, we plan on reaching for the stars."