City Sports Report

Is Steve Lavin’s job in jeopardy?

D'Angelo Harrison and Steve Lavin

By Lloyd Carroll

The return of the St. John’s University men’s basketball team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 should have been cause for rejoicing. The mood however was anything but ebullient on Sunday.

The Red Storm won over 20 games this year including a big one over Georgetown two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden. Just when it looked like the Johnnies were putting it all together at the right time, they were soundly beaten at Villanova in the Big East regular season finale.

The Storm then proceeded to be humiliated last Thursday in the first round of the Big East Tournament when they were blown out by the University of Providence Friars. That marked the fourth straight year that St. John’s had been eliminated in their opening game of the Big East Tournament, which of course is played at Madison Square Garden, which along with Carnesecca Arena, is a home court for them.

The latest post-season fiasco for the Red Storm certainly did not please Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman. “I am supposed to be neutral, of course, but I have to admit that I am not happy with St. John’s,” she told me last Friday after the annual Big East conference event about academia and athletics that was held in midtown Manhattan.

From an economic viewpoint, Ackerman would have been completely disingenuous had she responded any other way. New York is the nation’s biggest market and a strong Red Storm team means more attention for the Big East and bigger bucks when the next television contract is negotiated.

There were loud whispers that Red Storm head coach, Steve Lavin, who is heading into the last year of his contract, could be dismissed if St. John’s does not make it into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Steve did not help his cause when he suspended team center Chris Obepka for a mysterious violation of team rules on Sunday. It’s not an official Red Storm season until a player gets suspended. Red Storm fans will recall how Lavin suspended current players D’Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan in past years for reasons that still remain unknown.

Of course if the Red Storm can get by the San Diego State Aztecs Friday night in Charlotte (the game will be televised in prime time on CBS) then all of this Sturm und Drang will be happily forgotten.

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