Jarvis may be late entry in Georgia coach search

Less than a week after winning the NIT title in New York, St. John's coach Mike Jarvis was in New Orleans Monday for the NCAA championship game - and possibly to express his interest in a move to Georgia.

According to a source close to Georgia's search to replace Jim Harrick, Jarvis may be a late entrant in the process.

Jarvis has four 20-win seasons in his five years at St. John's after successful stints at George Washington and Boston University.

The possible interest from Jarvis comes at a time when Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley, associate athletic director Damon Evans and University of Georgia president Michael Adams are believed to be conducting follow-up interviews in New Orleans with three finalists: former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd, Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton and Creighton coach Dana Altman.

Mercer coach Mark Slonaker confirmed he was interviewed Sunday by Dooley and Evans but has not been contacted for a follow-up interview.

Early in the search process, Dooley said Adams would be included only in interviews with finalists.

Dooley also has had preliminary interviews with Georgia assistant coach James Holland and former Georgia and Atlanta Hawks standout Dominique Wilkins.

Felton, Floyd and Altman are believed to be the favorites for the job, but those conducting the search may be intrigued by Jarvis and possibly other new names.

Dooley left New Orleans Monday to attend a funeral in Brunswick, Ga., but returned to New Orleans in time for Monday night's championship game. It has become increasingly obvious that background checks will factor at least as large as the interviews in the search process.

In light of the scandal which cost Harrick his job and forced Dooley and Adams to pull Georgia out of the NCAA and Southeastern Conference tournaments, the top priority in this search is to find a new coach with an unblemished record for integrity.

Even if a coach has not been charged with any wrongdoing, in this search he could be hurt by a history of hiring assistants or recruiting players who have had problems with the NCAA or embarrass a school with legal problems.

There were indications Monday that Felton may rate especially high in the manner in which he runs a clean program.

Evidence of academic fraud and unethical conduct and the ongoing NCAA investigation of other charges of rules violations in the Georgia program led to Harrick's resignation, even though Dooley has said the coach was not personally linked to any evidence.

Harrick's son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., has been tied to the evidence of academic wrongdoing and charges of other violations, including giving improper financial benefits.

Jarvis led St. John's to a 70-67 victory over Georgetown in the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament in New York. St. John's was only 12-12 before a March 2 upset win over Duke sparked a strong finish to a 21-13 mark.

Despite that late surge, Jarvis has been under pressure from some fans after missing the NCAA tournament field for the second time in three years. His only losing season at St. John's in 2001 was followed by a first-round loss to Wisconsin in the 2002 NCAA tournament and this year's NIT berth.

In 1999, Jarvis led St. John's to the NCAA Elite Eight. He previously coached at Boston University, where he surpassed Rick Pitino to become that school's winningest coach, and at George Washington, where he advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1993.

Jarvis interviewed with the Washington Wizards in 2000 and has indicated in the past that he would leave St. John's only for a move to the NBA.

Jarvis has two years left on a seven-year contract which pays him $735,000 per season. It is possible that any reluctance from the St. John's administration to extend the contract could prompt Jarvis to consider other jobs.

Still, a major barrier for Jarvis at Georgia is the fact one of his assistant coaches at St. John's is his son, Mike Jarvis Jr.

After being burned by granting an exemption to the University of Georgia's nepotism policy by allowing Harrick to hire his son, Adams has vowed there will be no further exceptions allowed "on my watch.''

Jarvis did not return a message left at his New Orleans hotel room Monday. Felton also did not return a message. Altman checked out of his room Monday.

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