NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Lavin’s 5-year tenure as coach at St. John’s was bookended by NCAA Tournament appearances. Every season brought at least 20 wins.
That wasn’t enough to see him finish his original 6-year contract as Lavin and St. John’s “mutually agreed to part ways.”
The announcement came Friday, a week after the Red Storm capped a 21-12 season with a loss to San Diego State in the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament.
Rumors circulated earlier in the week that the sides were close to agreeing on a contract extension. Those were put to rest with Friday’s announcement.
“Coach Lavin returned high expectations to our men’s basketball program and represented St. John’s in a positive way,” athletic director Chris Monasch said. “Our student-athletes represented the University well, especially our five-member senior class who excelled on the court, inside the classroom and within the community.”
Lavin compiled an 81-55 record in his five seasons at St. John’s, but it was the postseason results that stood out for the wrong reasons. The Red Storm went 2-9 under Lavin in the Big East Tournament, NCAA Tournament and NIT. The outgoing senior class went 0-4 in the Big East Tournament, which is played at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm’s home court.
“In life change is inevitable, so I take the long view. I’m grateful for my time teaching at St. John’s University,” Lavin said. “I will take with me the lasting friendships forged during my tenure as head coach. I’m proud of our results both on and off the court.”
Lavin didn’t offer any more details in a text to The Associated Press on Friday night. He did send a second message with a quote from C.S. Lewis: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Lavin went to St. John’s after seven years of working as a game analyst for ESPN. He had been coach at UCLA from 1996-97 through 2002-03. He had a 145-78 record with the Bruins and they were in the NCAA Tournament each of the first six seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 five times. He was fired after going 10-19, UCLA’s first losing season in 52 years.
St. John’s said it will conduct a national search for the new coach.
“We will be aggressive in our search for a coach who has a track record of success, understands all the requirements of running a high major basketball program in New York City, including the media demands within this market,” Monasch said.
Names of possible replacements were mentioned almost immediately in the local media with many favoring one of Hurley brothers — Bobby at Buffalo and Danny at Rhode Island — while others wanted a former player — like Chris Mullin or Mark Jackson — to take over the seat on the bench.
Mullin didn’t return a phone message from The AP asking for comment on his interest.
One former St. John’s player threw his hat into the ring via social media.
Metta World Peace was known as Ron Artest when he played with the Red Storm from 1997-1999 before embarking on an NBA career.
“I would absolutely coach at St.Johns if presented with that opportunity. Go St.Johns,” he wrote on Twitter.
Artest tweeted from Milan, Italy, where he just signed with a professional team there.
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