Red vs. Turquoise
Even though St. John's was playing on one of its home floors, Thursday's game was hardly a home game for the Red Storm.
Not only was Arizona wearing white uniforms because the 2K Sports Classic designated it the home team, but Wildcats fans nearly matched the St. John's fans in number, creating a sea of red in the lower seats.
The biggest number in the stands, however, were the unoccupied seats, including nearly all the upper-level ones brushed in 1970s-style turquoise. Officials announced the attendance at 9,036 for the 19,973-seat arena.
Ever since St. John's started playing red-hot last season while its coaches wore white shoes in honor of the Coaches vs. Cancer organization, Steve Lavin and his staff have continued the trend.
Thursday, the entire Red Storm staff was tieless, with white Nike Air Force Ones that feature red trim.
"The rest of my career I don't anticipate ever going back to a tie or to dress shoes ever again," Lavin said after his team stunned Pittsburgh 60-59 last season.
Hanging in there
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy coached in just his second game Thursday since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and missing much of the preseason with his team.
"I'm thankful to be here," Kennedy said. "It's a 'God bless' for me to be here because I didn't know I would be here a week ago. I feel bad for our team because I haven't been able to help them as much as I would like. But I'm hoping to get better every day."
Apparently, even Kennedy is not getting a free pass in the competitive world of basketball recruiting.
Aggies associate head coach Glynn Cyprien said other teams have been talking to recruits about the fact that Kennedy has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, suggesting that his ability to coach them will be compromised.
"It's a cutthroat business in a lot of ways, and it has been thrown around in recruiting," Cyprien said. "You hate to see that, but I guess that's the way it is when you've got some programs who choose to negatively recruit."
Cyprien said the Aggie staff has tried to offset it by communicating with its recruiting targets.
"It has come up in numerous conversations," Cyprien said. "We tried to assure all the kids that coach will be back. We assure kids he'll be back at 100percent."
No mo MoMo
MoMo Jones was nowhere to be found at Madison Square Garden, nor in New York. In fact, the former Wildcat isn't even in the Continental United States, joining his new Iona teammates at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where the Gaels lost 91-90 to Purdue in their opener on Thursday.
Iona point guard Scott Machado told the New York Daily News before the tournament that the Gaels could "compete with anybody" with Jones and a talented returning core. Iona coach Tim Cluess has already found Jones a valuable addition.
"I think his leadership is a quality that we really did not have on the team last year," Cluess told the Daily News. "He'll pull the guys together and relax them or get in their face. He's willing to do that, and not a lot of players are."
Steve's new pal
Leave it to the ever-outgoing Lavin to pick up a reporter's ringing cellphone during a news conference Wednesday. The phone had been left on the podium as a voice recorder but was not turned into airplane mode, so it rang with the caller ID of "Davey."
"Davey... Davey? Davey, how are you? It's Steve Lavin, St. John's University," he said, according to the Daily News, cracking up the media on hand.
After a brief conversation, Lavin then resumed his news conference.
"He seemed a little taken aback," Lavin joked of his new phone buddy. "But he was a real gentleman though; he said 'thank you.'"
Bird and brains
When he served as UA's associate head coach in 2008-09, Mike Dunlap said he preferred to sit at the end of the bench because of the perspective on the game and the players.
With St. John's on Thursday, Dunlap wasn't even on the bench. The Red Storm assistant sat along the baseline, tucked between the bench and something known as "Johnny the Thunderbird," which has been St. John's mascot since 2009.
When Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury was asked what he needed from controversial Bulldog standout Renardo Sidney, he became defensive.
Sidney was 0 for 8 from the field in the first game of the 2K Sports Classic doubleheader on Thursday.
"I thought he played with pretty good effort," Stansbury said. "What he didn't do was finish his shots. He's going to finish those shots."