Hanging over the program in the last year or so has been the question about Steve Lavin and his extension, and now that the Red Storm are done for the season, home after a 76-64 loss to San Diego State on Friday night. It has come up in the news, especially since there was talk of last year of an extension, and the fact that Steve Lavin is coming up on his last year on his current contract.
St. John's wants stability, and wants success. Is Steve Lavin the man to bring it to St. John's? Or has he brought that already?
Steve Lavin spoke about it to the reporters last night.
Does @SJUCoachLavin need extension going into last year of deal? "Of course." But adds, 'It's never been an issue." Confident it gets done.— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) March 21, 2015
@SJUCoachLavin said: "If someone five years ago told me this is where we were going to be, I think everyone would have signed on for it."— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) March 21, 2015
@SJUCoachLavin also said he "wouldn't be surprised" if both Chris Obekpa and Rysheed Jordan return.— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) March 21, 2015
Is there enough in pipeline to restock #sjubb roster? Lavin assured there is & he will be involved w/many recruits in April signing period.— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) March 21, 2015
Steve Lavin made a case for himself a few weeks ago as well.
St. John's coach Steve Lavin gave his best case for his tenure here unsolicited after the team's fourth win in five games. #sjubb— Joseph Staszewski (@CNG_Staszewski) February 21, 2015
"We have sell out crowds & fans that are engaged & care & get upset when we lose, 'Get rid of the head coach.'" Lavin said....(Cont.) #sjubb— Joseph Staszewski (@CNG_Staszewski) February 21, 2015
Lavin (Cont.)..."I understand the racket. I'm so pleased these kid represent us in a first class manner and made us relevant... #sjubb— Joseph Staszewski (@CNG_Staszewski) February 21, 2015
Lavin (Cont) "Every season we're in the hunt for a tournament or do something in the post season That was the job I was asked to do." #sjubb— Joseph Staszewski (@CNG_Staszewski) February 21, 2015
There have been 20 win seasons. But there have been suspensions and ineligible players.
There have been two NCAA berths. But both required senior-filled teams with little returning the following year.
But is this boom and bust cycle where St. John's should be? Contending for NCAA berths every third or fourth year (despite rhetoric to the contrary, St. John's was firmly on the wrong side of the bubble in 2013 when D`Angelo Harrison was asked to step away from the team)?
Or can Steve Lavin do better with the stability of another three-four years, given his ability to bring in talent and motivate players?
Has Steve Lavin done all he can do? Like some fans want, is it time for a fresh face? Could another coach build on what Steve Lavin has done, or would another coach be a regression, needing to re-recruit a whole team late in the process? Can another coach market St. John's and Steve Lavin as effectively as Steve Lavin has? That's the question the brain trust at St. John's has to answer.
NY Post's Mike Vaccaro thinks that the decision depends on how ambitious St. John's wants to be.
But facing this level of scrutiny after what, on paper, looks like a solid five years, would Steve Lavin even want to return, or does he need specific assurances? Is St. John's willing to fund the program as well as Villanova or Marquette do?
It's not just St. John's choice, and going into a year where the top projected players will be a top-50 freshman guard and an energetic forward who didn't shoot well in Amar Alibegovic, Steve Lavin may want (and need) time to return to this level.
Was the program stable before, as Norm Roberts graduated players, wiped the supposed stink off the Jarvis era?
Pros/ Cons: Wins and Losses
St. John's has enjoyed three years with over 20 wins, certainly better than what came before - two NCAA berths and two NIT berths.
Those successes speak well of a program that can reach the top half of the league. The team was tied for third in 2014 and fifth in a stronger Big East this season.
That first year was an achievement. The second and possibly third years were understandable - especially given the competition of the old Big East, stacked with the likes of Connecticut and Syracuse.
But year four featured Lavin's team filled with talent, deep at every position, with two players who are fringe NBA players. And that team, in a weak Big East, struggled for stretches in the middle of the season, couldn't grab a big win, and flamed out spectacularly in the end; because of ties the Red Storm were the fifth team of four that went to the NCAA Tournament, the odd team out and the 1st team in the NIT.
The NCAA appearances came only with teams filled with seniors - and neither appearance ended in a victory (once as a higher seed, once as a lower seed).
And the comparisons to the previous head coach must be put into context. Cracking 20 wins in the old Big East was an achievement against some of the most monied franchises in the sport. The current Big East is very competitive, but less foreboding than the previous version. How much higher should the standards for wins and position in the league be for Lavin? And what kind of support will that require?
Pros/ Cons: Player Relationships
Lavin is a player's coach, willing to both discipline his players and bench them in response to transgressions.
He inspires players for stretches to find new levels of play, and in those periods his teams seem like they can beat anyone in the country.
There have been a number of transgressions that speak to a lack of initial discipline - for example, Obekpa cheap-shotting an opponent on two occasions this year, discipline issues last year. Is there a willingness to give some players a pass?
Pros/ Cons: Recruiting
Steve Lavin was able to bring in a top-five rated recruiting class in 2011. He brought Chris Obekpa in 2012, along with a fringe NBA player in Orlando Sanchez and some intriguing pieces (plus Jakarr Sampson, who was part of the top-five recruiting class but had to be re-recruited). Steve Lavin also brought in Rysheed Jordan, a top-25 recruit, in 2013.
Lavin's ability to be creative has him in the mix with some solid European recruits, guards from Arizona, and a top-50 player for next year - along with top-10 forward Cheick Diallo, who was one of his targets coming into the season.
The last two years have seen the recruiting wane, as Lavin focused on Isaiah Briscoe - who spurned St. John's. One missed recruit shouldn't be a knock against a coach, but Lavin has not been able to find high-level US recruits - or eligible recruits last season, and part of that failure is that focus on 2015's class - without bringing in a base of role players to supplement the trio of superstars Lavin thought he had on lock.
And so, the roster next year will consist of newcomers and players who couldn't crack the rotation despite the Red Storm playing multiple players 35 or more minutes in many games. The incoming players don't come with the same accolades as the 2011 class.
Pros/ Cons: Incremental Progress
Steve Lavin has slowly increased the win totals for the team after recruiting a whole team in 2011, after accelerating the progression for the previous set of seniors.
Can Steve Lavin keep this progress up after what will be a rebuilding year next season? How long will it take for the Johnnies to compete for the NIT... and then for relevance, the edge of the 68-team NCAA Tournament?
What are your pros and cons?