After ousting six-year fixture Norm Roberts and enduring rejection after rejection from other prominent college coaches, St. John’s University inked former UCLA coach Steve Lavin to a six-year, $9 – 9.5 million deal on Tuesday, March 30.
Red Storm Director of Athletics Chris Monasch announced the deal that will bring the 19th men’s basketball coach to St. John’s 102-plus years of basketball.
“Today is the start of a new era in the venerable history of St. John’s basketball,” said Monasch. “Steve brings the skill set and persona that we feel gives us a chance to compete at the highest level in the Big East.”
The Johnnies will return five starters and 13 letter winners to the squad for the 2010-2011 season. This leads Lavin to believe that the school does not have far to go to compete with the rest of the Big East.
“The veteran, senior-laden team is a real advantage in terms of having the experience of playing in the Big East and competing at the highest level,” said Lavin. “I look forward to getting to know each of the players individually, being able to sit down and watch some game film from last year, putting together a staff and starting to have our school sessions in terms of next season.”
Lavin has already begun to assemble his staff, hiring Drexel assistant Tony Chiles as an assistant on the Red Storm staff. Chiles, a South Bronx product, gives Lavin a much-needed staffer with New York roots and recruiting experience.
During his tenure at UCLA, Lavin’s Bruins reached the NCAA Tournament six times and had six seasons of 21 or more wins. He was one of only two coaches in the country to lead his team to five NCAA regional semifinal games (Sweet 16s) in six years. With the Bruins, Lavin’s career record in the first two rounds of the tournament was 10-1.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to return to the sidelines coaching college basketball at a school like St. John’s that has such tradition and heritage in terms of the history of basketball,” said Lavin. “Then you add the academic dimension, as well as New York City and Madison Square Garden, it’s as good as it gets.”