City Sports Report

Steve Lavin Leaves St. John’s


By Lloyd Carroll

Two weeks ago I titled my column, “Is Lavin’s job in jeopardy?” Last Friday afternoon, which is always a preferred time for companies to publicly reveal bad news, we got the answer as St. John’s announced that it had dismissed Steve Lavin as its basketball head coach.
It’s somewhat ironic that Lavin was terminated after the Red Storm made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in four years. It would be easy to point to their propensity for being one and done in post-season play (four straight quick exits in the Big East Tournament and the equally quick disappearance in the first-round of the NCAA two weeks ago) but that would not tell the whole story as to why he got the boot.
Too many of Lavin’s recruits have either been suspended at one time or another or have been academically ineligible to play. Center Chris Obepka’s suspension for marijuana use at the worst possible time, just days before the NCAA Tournament was about to begin, was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as St. John’s president Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw was concerned.
At a fund-raising dinner last year, Gempesaw praised the SJU women’s basketball program that has had just as much, if not more, success than the men’s. There have not been any embarrassing off-the-court issues for the women’s hoops players and the vast majority take their studies very seriously. Many are in nursing and pre-med programs. Center Amber Thompson told me at last fall’s Big East Media Day that she was an accounting major.
On a personal note, I like Steve Lavin. He has always been very generous with his time when I have needed to talk with him even when it appeared that the St. John’s sports information directors during his tenure preferred that he interact only with the sportswriters from the dailies, particularly during postgame press conferences.

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