Friday, March 27, 2015

Steve Lavin, St. John’s ‘mutually agree’ to part ways: Report

Steve Lavin will no longer be the men's basketball coach at St. John's, the school announced Friday, after the two sides mutually parted ways.

The news comes days after reports said Lavin was in talks over a contract extension and one week after the Red Storm were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the first round. Those extension talks didn't last long, as reports later stated his job was in jeopardy.

“Coach Lavin returned high expectations to our men’s basketball program and represented St. John’s in a positive way,” St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch said in a statement. “We appreciate his commitment to the program and to our student-athletes over the past five years. Our student-athletes represented the University well, especially our five-member senior class who excelled on the court, inside the classroom and within the community.”

Lavin did a lot of good at St. John's. He raised the profile of the basketball program, won 20 games 3 times and most will say he left the program in better shape now than when he got here. After all, he took the program to the 2011 NCAA Tournament for the first time after a nine-year drought but critics point out it was a roster filled mostly with previous coach Norm Roberts' recruits. And in postseason play, Lavin’s teams did not fare well. They were 1-5 in the Big East Tournament, 1-2 in the NIT and 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament.  

While Lavin went 21-12 during the 2014-15 season, and compiled a decent 81-55 record over five years, he never seemed to get the team over the hump.

And the disappointing 12 point loss to San Diego State in Charlotte last week — due largely because of the suspension of Chris Obekpa — was probably the last hinge to his fate despite all of the talk about the contract extension.

Granted, Lavin coached only four games in 2011-12 after bravely battling prostate cancer surgery, but there was always the academically ineligible recruits, untimely player suspensions and relatively low profile for a team in the nation's biggest media market that kept his job in question.

“In life change is inevitable, so I take the long view. I'm grateful for my time teaching at St. John’s University,” Lavin said in a statement. “I will take with me the lasting friendships forged during my tenure as Head Coach. I'm proud of our results both on and off the court — in particular our memorable runs to the NCAA tournament in 2011 and 2015. Most importantly, I take pride in our performance in the classroom having graduated our student athletes who will represent the institution in a first class manner."

Lavin is a decent man of principles and a well-liked coach but, with his senior-laden team all but gone, it seemed the time was right for the Red Storm to begin all over again.

And something tells me you'll be hearing the names Mullin and Hurley around Carneseca Arena a lot in the next few weeks. And maybe Mark Jackson.

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