The St. John’s Red Storm and their Head Coach Steve Lavin mutually agreed to part ways on Friday afternoon after five seasons.
Lavin said in a statement, “In life, change is inevitable, so I take the long view. I’m grateful for my time teaching at St. John’s University. 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.”
St. John’s Athletic Director Chris Monasch, who announced the move, said, “Coach Lavin returned high expectations to our men’s basketball program and represented St. John’s in a positive way. 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.
“We thank Coach Lavin for his leadership and all of his contributions to the University. He infused excitement back into the program, brought us to the postseason four times and recruited student-athletes who excelled on the court, inside the classroom and within the community,” said Monasch.
Lavin was seeking an extension, reportedly three years, as he had one year left on his contract. It is fitting that Lavin leaves now since his three main players. D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer, and Phil Greene are all graduating.
The Lavin tenure was in many ways a failure. The Red Storm won only one Big East Tournament game in his tenure, made the NCAA Tournament twice, but once was with Norm Roberts’ players, and lost their first game each time; made the NIT twice, but they tanked it in an embarrassing performance in 2014 at home to Robert Morris.
In addition to falling well short on the court and never backing up the talk, Lavin’s players were being constantly suspended. In 2013, Harrison was sent home before the regular season ended, Rysheed Jordan was suspended twice, and the final suspension was the most costly, as Chris Obepka had to miss the NCAA Tournament for a drug violation. Why Lavin specialized in recruiting kids with low character or from troubled backgrounds is a mystery. Maybe he wanted to be this era’s Father Flanagan.
St. John’s has an intrepid new President, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., and he is looking to clean up the image of the school after Father Donald Harrington left in disgrace. One place to start, and the thing that gives them the most exposure, is the basketball team.
Gempesaw said in a statement, ““I enjoyed celebrating our student-athletes’ accomplishments in my first year at St. John’s. We look forward to building on this foundation as we strive to continue the tradition of success that the St. John’s basketball program has achieved for more than 100 years.”
Monasch said of the coaching search, “A national search is underway for a candidate who possesses the characteristics to give our program an opportunity to successfully compete at the national level. We will be aggressive in our search for a coach who has a track record of success, understands all the requirements of running a high major basketball program in New York City, including the media demands within this market. We are seeking someone who embraces the St. John’s mission and tradition, including the ability to attract the top talent both nationally and internationally.”
On the current and future student-athletes, Monasch said, “We are committed to our current and future student athletes, including those who have signed a National Letter of Intent. We will meet with our student-athletes individually to discuss this change and the future of the program, and any concerns they may have with the direction of the program.”
Monasch said of the expectations for St. John’s basketball, “Our goal is to be competitive at the highest level of Division I. We expect to do that with student-athletes who achieve academically and enrich our University community.”