Lavin stresses the "macro" perspective despite Johnnies' recent distractions

USA TODAY Sports

Lavin's Red Storm has experienced an up-and-down season and still fights for a postseason berth.

If you were looking for a smooth ride, you came to the wrong place.

Things haven't exactly been easy for St. John's since starting 7-4 in the Big East.

The death of the head coach's father, a legal involvement with the NCAA to fight for player eligibility, the suspension of the team's leading scorer, and a brawl that has left the Red Storm without its fourth-leading scorer for its final game have defined a 33-day stretch that turns hair gray.

You may ask: how could St. John's have possibly focused on basketball during this time? How could they analyze game film and draw practice plans amid such distractions?

A simple answer is that they have tried. They have tried valiantly, in fact. But despite the efforts to keep the bandage over the wounds, St. John's has lost six of its last eight games with much attention on matters having little to do with on-court performance.

"No matter how you slice it, things have been very difficult across the board since February 3rd," Steve Lavin said on Friday afternoon. "From that point to today, we've had a tough run over these four or five weeks."

Since Lavin was hired in 2010, matters such as these haven't been uncharted waters for St. John's - some self-imposed, some to the complete contrary.

And in recent weeks, a season that appeared to have similar promise to Lavin's first campaign in Queens has turned sour. The Red Storm's short-lived stay in bubble talks and mock brackets seems like months ago instead of days ago.

Yet Lavin believes that the hardships St. John's has endured this season could have a deeper effect, one that will benefit his team in the long run. He doesn't expect fans, media, or even his own players to recognize that now. But the "macro" perspective is certainly part of his job description.

"As a coach, you have to have a balanced perspective. The fans want it to be 1985 again, and why not? That's what we're aspiring to do," Lavin said. "Things are going to come up and every program has to deal with them at some point."

It is difficult to see the light in situations like St. John's has experienced in its last week. D`Angelo Harrison's season-ending suspension and Sir`Dominic Pointer's participation in a fight shown on national television do not seem like morale-building events.

Lavin called Pointer's actions unacceptable and certainly wasn't proud of the decision he had to make on Harrison. But he has chosen to turn the negatives into positives.

"As a group of young men moving forward, these experiences may shape them more than if we had just glided through a season and waltzed into the NCAA Tournament to lose in the first or second game," Lavin continued. "There are things going on here that really could pay dividends down the line."

News surrounding St. John's hasn't been entirely negative. Orlando Sanchez was finally ruled eligible to play next season and the "Catholic 7" officially announced their decision to depart the Big East to create a fresh, basketball-centric conference this summer. But it is possible that each has contributed to drawing attention away from every day basketball operations.

St. John's has one game remaining on its regular season schedule - a Saturday afternoon meeting with Marquette at Madison Square Garden. They will also be faced with at least one opportunity to turn their fortunes at next week's Big East Tournament.

At least two more chances to make one final "micro" impact.

Steve Lavin remains confident and still believes that St. John's is ahead of where he had thought they would be by this point. Two postseason berths in three years and a bevy of on- and off-court experience will help the Johnnies evolve.

Incremental progress is Lavin's theme. His young Red Storm team may be slightly veering off the beaten path, but he insists that they continue to move in the right direction.

As hard as that may be to believe.

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