BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) -Mike Jarvis believes in fate.
There was a reason he moved to Boca Raton instead of other spots in the Sunshine State that his wife preferred. A reason offers he submitted to buy homes in different South Florida cities weren't accepted. A reason he wound up living on a golf course, although he rarely plays the game.
For 4 1/2 years, he wondered why it happened that way.
``Now I know,'' Jarvis said. ``Something was calling me here.''
Here is Florida Atlantic, a public university with a campus 10 minutes from that golf-course home Jarvis moved into not long after St. John's fired him in December 2003. It is never been a basketball hotbed, with only one NCAA tournament appearance to its credit and just three winning seasons since 1997. Since going to Division I 15 seasons ago, the Owls' winning percentage is a paltry .346.
The program needs to be reborn, and hired Jarvis last month to do exactly that.
``I'm very happy for him,'' said Patrick Ewing, the 2008 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee who played for Jarvis in high school in Cambridge, Mass. ``Mike Jarvis is an outstanding coach. He's done an outstanding job everywhere he's been and it was a shame to see him out of the game as long as he was. I'm not surprised he still wanted to coach. If you're doing something you love, your lifespan can be a lot longer.''
The way Jarvis sees it, life started when he moved to Boca Raton.
When St. John's fired him, Jarvis asked his wife where she wanted to move, noting that they never had the chance before to choose where they wanted to live - until then, it was always dictated by the job. She said she wanted to leave New York and head someplace warm. Her first choice: Naples, Fla., on the state's Gulf Coast. But Jarvis suggested that, because of television work he would do, it would make more sense to live in South Florida, where three airports are clustered an hour apart.
The couple agreed, and found Boca.
Though Jarvis found more than that.
Soon after moving, Jarvis was introduced to the Spanish River Church, which boasts a congregation of 6,000. It is a mega-church, with Sunday services streaming live on the Internet. Never particularly religious - spiritual, but not necessarily devout - before moving to Boca, Jarvis quickly became enamored with the church.
``It's only through the grace of God that I finally realized I didn't know enough about what I needed to know most about,'' Jarvis said. ``So then I really, really became a student of the most important playbook I've ever been in, the Bible. And to be very honest with you, that had very much to do with me getting this job. There's no doubt about that.''
FAU's search for a replacement for Rex Walters was nationwide, all-encompassing, with more than 100 names making their way across athletic director Craig Angelos' desk. Jarvis quickly was at the top of the list, and many members of that 6,000-person church - ``my family,'' Jarvis said - called FAU to lobby for their favorite candidate.
Clearly, the local support didn't hurt.
``I know a lot of people here,'' Jarvis said. ``They better be coming to these games.''
FAU, which typically plays home games before a few hundred people, might be seeing a few thousand at home games sooner than later.
``It's been a very interesting four years for us,'' said Connie Jarvis, the coach's wife. ``We had to learn patience, a lot of patience. But he loves coaching. He's good at it. I think now he has more information that he'd like to share with young people, not just Xs and Os, but skills for life. That's what drove him back.''
So, too, did the desire to eliminate the bad aftertaste he had from his St. John's experience.
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.
Not much went right for him in New York after that year.
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.
Largely because of that mess, FAU passed on Jarvis three years ago, hiring Matt Doherty. This time, it welcomed him with open arms.
``He's the right fit for us at the right time,'' Angelos said.
To hear Jarvis tell it, he'll be in Boca for a long time, too.
Doherty, the former North Carolina coach who resurfaced at FAU, stayed only one year before leaving. Walters lasted two years before deciding the time was right to take over at San Francisco. And the notion of coaches using jobs at the so-called midmajors as springboards into one of the game's power conferences isn't exactly a new one.
Jarvis says that isn't the case here. He points out that he's always fulfilled every contract he's had.
``I hope and have every intention to have this be not only my last coaching job,'' he said, ``but my most enjoyable coaching job.''

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