Jarvis returns to college coaching after nearly five-year absence
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Mike Jarvis found a home in Boca Raton four years ago. Now, he's got a job to go with it.
Jarvis was introduced Tuesday as the men's basketball coach at Florida Atlantic, returning to run a program for the first time since St. John's fired him six games into the 2003-04 season.
University trustees still must formally approve the hiring, a process that now seems little more than a formality. Jarvis' four-year deal almost certainly will become official Wednesday.
"This is our town," said Jarvis, who has worked as a columnist and commentator since departing from St. John's. "This is going to be our story."
At FAU, Jarvis -- who bought and moved into a Boca Raton home in 2004 and will have about a 10-minute commute to work -- will replace Rex Walters, who left after two seasons to take over at San Francisco. The Owls were 15-18 last season, 8-10 in the Sun Belt Conference, and should have five of their top six scorers back for Jarvis' debut campaign.
"No one has wanted to get back into coaching more than me," Jarvis said.
And once again, the Owls have made a splashy hire.
A school that already has Howard Schnellenberger coaching football -- his Owls won the Sun Belt and were the only team from the pigskin-crazed Sunshine State to win a bowl game last season -- and hired former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty to lead the basketball program three years ago now can add Jarvis to its marquee lineup.
"I am convinced it was a matter of time before he landed somewhere back in the big game," FAU president Frank Brogan said. "We are glad that that big game now includes Florida Atlantic University."
Jarvis has reached the NCAA tournament at all three of his previous stops: Boston University, George Washington and St. John's, which he guided within one game of the Final Four in his first season there, 1998-99.
It was all downhill after that, and the fall not only cost him that job, it probably kept him from getting others, including past openings at FAU. He interviewed for the job that went to Doherty in 2005.
Under Jarvis, the Red Storm won only one more NCAA tournament game after his first season and had several players get into trouble both on and off the court. Plus, St. John's was ultimately placed on two years' probation because a member of the basketball staff -- not one of Jarvis' assistant coaches, however -- made improper payments to a player during Jarvis' tenure in Queens.
"It was something I had to get comfortable with," said FAU athletic director Craig Angelos, who vetted Jarvis with dozens of phone calls and interviews with people who know him and have worked with him. "Over time, I came to have a real comfort level that we can go forward and move past this."
That probation ended earlier this month. Coincidentally, Jarvis has now found his way back into coaching.
If Jarvis is going to take another team to the NCAAs, he'll likely have to overcome quite a rebuilding challenge.
Since moving to Division I, the Owls are 148-280, with only three winning seasons in the last 11 years. And Florida Atlantic has been to the NCAAs just once, in 2002.
"We're going to be playing in the dance," Jarvis said. "I don't know when. I'm not making those promises. But I am promising you that before very long, we're going to be having a party here."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press