Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Johnnies Hoping Steve Means Savior

St. John's appears to be close to a deal with former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, and could name him as Norm Roberts' successor as early as this afternoon. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

After almost two weeks of debate and indecision coupled with being left at the altar on two separate occasions, it appears as though St. John's has finally found their successor to Norm Roberts.

In a story that had more twists and turns than a roller coaster at nearby Six Flags Great Adventure, the New York Post's Lenn Robbins reported via Twitter shortly after midnight that the Johnnies will be reaching an agreement sometime today with Steve Lavin, best known for his former role as the head coach at UCLA, as well as his current line of work as a studio analyst and color commentator on ESPN's coverage of college basketball.

The anticipated hire of Lavin comes just days after Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt and Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg both declined offers to take over the Red Storm. Lavin and athletic director Chris Monasch met in lower Manhattan last night, and the former Bruins coach will be eating lunch with former Johnnies coach and icon Lou Carnesecca later today. In addition, Lavin was reportedly on campus at St. John's earlier, perhaps looking at Taffner Field House, which serves as St. John's practice venue.

The 45-year-old Lavin, who succeeded Jim Harrick at UCLA in 1996 just one year after winning a national championship, guided the Bruins to a 145-78 record in his seven-year tenure, reaching the Sweet 16 in five of those seven seasons. He has not coached since then, but reports seem to indicate that he is in favor of hiring a staff with ties to the New York area. Rumored candidates to be named assistant coaches include Dave Leitao, the former DePaul and Virginia head man who served as Jim Calhoun's assistant at Connecticut during the Huskies' first national championship run in 1999, as well as Barry Rohrssen, the current Manhattan head coach who was an assistant to Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh before replacing Bobby Gonzalez at the helm of the Jaspers in 2006.

Lavin commented on the situation he may inherit in Queens, stating that it would take "a unique situation for me to put the armor on one more time," calling the job to coach the Johnnies a "tremendous opportunity." Any contract would have to be approved by St. John's president Rev. Donald Harrington, and Lavin has expressed an interest to fly his family from California for his introductory press conference, which could occur as early as tomorrow if a deal is made official at some point today. All indications are that Lavin is openly embracing the St. John's program, as he also spoke at length about the tradition at St. John's, one that started with Joe Lapchick and continued under the reign of the aforementioned Lou Carnesecca.

"It's humbling to be considered a part of that tradition," said Lavin of St. John's, whom he also praised as "one of those storied programs."

Further updates on this developing situation will be posted once they are available.

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