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Steve Lavin weighs in on realignment, the future of St. John's

Conference realignment is engulfing much of the Big East. Will St. John's be next?

Quinn Rochford

Steve Lavin walked into the Taffner Fieldhouse press conference room on Tuesday, uninformed about the latest Big East developments.

"Is there any more news on any of the conference stuff?" Lavin asked Mark Fratto, St. John's Senior Associate Director for Athletic Communications. "Isn't Rutgers doing something?"

Whether the Red Storm head coach was simply confirming Rutgers' decision to bolt to the Big Ten or he actually was unaware is uncertain. But he was intrigued, as football-focused realignment drifts around the basketball programs that have been the heart of the Big East for thirty years.

"Really, our focus has been just on our team. There's been so much speculation in terms of the possible outcomes of conference realignment," Lavin told the Rumble. "It's something we don't have any control over."

Perhaps St. John's isn't so distant from all the hoopla. The Rumble provided some feedback to speculation that the Red Storm could find itself in the ACC sooner rather than later.

According to the school's student newspaper, The Torch, St. John's President Rev. Donald J. Harrington claims the ACC or any other conference has not contacted him about a possible move. But he didn't deny some level of interest if such an opportunity were to arise, and brought up the idea without prompting.

Just like Harrington, Lavin understands that any upcoming decisions are completely out of the hands of the higher-ups at St. John's.

"I always preach to the kids about focusing on the things we can control, which is getting better as a basketball team," Lavin mentioned on Tuesday. "But as I've said all along, regardless of how conference realignment shakes out, St. John's is uniquely positioned."

He's right, in a sense. St. John's has the wonders of New York City at its disposal. No other school, no matter the size or the location, can say that it has Madison Square Garden as a tool in its tool shed.

St. John's doesn't have that one ingredient that would make it a true player in this realignment revolution - football. The Red Storm's revenue generating athletic entity, Lavin's basketball squad, has been barely considered a factor. Conference members don't sell a basketball program. The school's culture does.

"I've never sold Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the way we've recruited," Lavin said. "We've focused on, very similarly to what I did at UCLA, that [St. John's] is in one of the centers of the world. We're six hours from the shores of Europe and six hours from the west coast - it's like the fulcrum of a seesaw."

Lavin has used the city - or the fulcrum of the western world - to draw in talent from all over the globe. He's made St. John's an attractive destination again, football or no football.

These conferences don't necessarily view things in such a way. The moves that we've seen over the last two years have been financially-driven, and nothing else. It's about TV contracts centered around football. St. John's is on the bottom of the pecking order.

On Tuesday, Lavin sat back and provided the vague, yet necessary answers on conference realignment. He recognized that the future of St. John's league classification is uncertain, and stressed that the uncertainties shouldn't affect what he's built and what he and his staff continue to work on with this young team.

Though the rumors are starting to hit closer to home, it's important to acknowledge and move on with business as usual.

St. John's will turn its efforts back to the Carnesecca Arena floor on Wednesday night and the things they can control, as they welcome the Patriot League's Holy Cross Crusaders for a non-conference clash.

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