Coach Steve Lavin to leave St. John’s basketball program after 5 years

Stephen Zitolo, Sports Editor

St. John’s and Steve Lavin mutually agreed to part ways on Friday afternoon after five seasons.

“”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. “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.”

The decision by both Lavin and St. John’s comes as a bit of a shocker. As of Wednesday Lavin and the University were reportedly deep in contract negotiations to extend his tenure as head coach.

During Lavin’s tenure he led St. John’s to two NCAA Tournament appearances and an overall record of 92-72. But what is most important was he got the men’s basketball program back In the national spotlight and made St. John’s a place where top recruits were willing to go and play. 

“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. “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.”

Within minutes of Lavin and St. John’s parting ways reports swirled of who the next head coach would be. The names of experienced coaches like Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello, Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, and Buffalo’s Bobby Hurley, who is interviewing for the DePaul job, are the top names reported. Former St. John’s greats Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson are names that have also popped up in recent hours.

But a coach isn’t what wins games on the floor; the players are the ones who do that. This parting of ways might have an extremely negative effect on next year’s team. Lavin recruited St. John’s two best returning players in junior forward Chris Obekpa and sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan, two players that have the option to declare for the NBA Draft. Will the departure of Lavin make the decision to leave school early easier for both? St. John’s fans better hope not because without them next year’s success will be in serious jeopardy.

The decision by Lavin and the university has already had implications on next year’s team. The Red Storm’s top recruit, shooting guard Brandon Sampson from Louisiana, has already decommitted from St. John’s. Sampson is still going to consider St. John’s when a new coach is hired.

St. John’s men’s basketball is now entering a time of uncertainty after everything looked so promising only a week ago.