ESPN is reporting that St. John’s University and head basketball coach Steve Lavin have mutually agreed to part ways. The 50-year-old Lavin coached the Red Storm for five years, accumulating a record of 91-74, and making two trips to the NCAA Tournament. He only coached four games his second season due to undergoing cancer treatments.
Lavin first got into the head coaching game with UCLA in 1996, after serving as a longtime assistant under Jim Harrick. He led the Bruins to the Elite Eight that season, and the Sweet Sixteen for four of the next five seasons. He was fired in 2003 and was an analyst for ESPN and ABC in the years before replacing Norm Roberts at a St. John’s program that was still hurting from a scandal involving former coach Mike Jarvis.
Lavin quickly re-established St. John’s as a Big East Contender in his first season, going 21-12 his first season and giving the team its best finish in nearly a decade, plus a tournament berth as a No. 6 seed (they lost to Gonzaga in the Round of 64). But the momentum quickly cooled. St. John’s stumbled the rest of the way and failed to keep up with the rest of the competition in the Big East. Despite above average records, the team’s only other trip to the big dance was this year as a No. 9, and they lost to San Diego State. Thus, perhaps Lavin leaving was the only solution for a program that is still looking to get back to the national prominence it enjoyed under Hall of Famer Lou Carnesecca.
His departure also puts the future of recruit Brandon Sampson in doubt. The guard verbally committed to the school, but that could change since Lavin is now gone, per ESPN.
Names are already being thrown around regarding Lavin’s replacement, namely St. John’s alum and former NBA All Star Chris Mullin. Another name to consider would be alum and current ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, who spent three seasons coaching the Golden State Warriors and 17 years in the NBA as a point guard. Heck, maybe Shaka Smart can be lured away from Virginia Commonwealth!
Either way, St. John’s next head coaching hire has to be a big one. This is a school that was a powerhouse under Carnesecca and enjoyed a trip to the Final Four in 1985. More importantly, they play a great number of home games at Madison Square Garden, dubbed by many as “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Otherwise, this program may just be destined to continue wallowing in mediocrity.
*Section Photo credit to Patrick McDermott, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Malik Sealy USA Today Sports.