Steve Lavin is best known for his mafia hair, smoking hot wife and reputation as a late-night carouser.
His analysis at ESPN was uninspiring. His run at UCLA ended without a Final Four (although with an Elite 8 and four other Sweet 16’s). He spent seven years, an eternity in college basketball, sitting on the sidelines waiting for another job.
So, at first glance the hire of Lavin by St. John’s doesn’t scare Orange Nation in the least.
“Steve Lavin? That ESPN reject? Unless Jay Williams and his motorcycle leg is gonna suit up for his buddy, I’m not worried about the Johnnies.”
But Lavin has grabbed a piece of the Gotham hoops landscape already. He was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Mets game last month (guess here is Norm Roberts never got that invite). He has begun assembling an assistant coaching staff with tight NYC prep relationships.
And then there was this: “Rice High School coach Moe Hicks has agreed to become the Director of Basketball Operations at St. John’s under head coach Steve Lavin.”
For the record, Rice is the New York Yankees of New York City high school hoops. Hicks led Rice to the New York State Federation tournament championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2009 and has always pumped out Division 1 players, including Curtis Kelly (Kansas State), Kemba Walker (UConn) and Durand Scott (Miami).
Add Felipe Lopez, Andre Barrett, Russell Robinson and Edgar Sosa to the list of Rice products and you begin the understand the value in creating a pipeline to one of the most storied prep programs in the country.
Now technically Hicks won’t be able to recruit from that spot. NCAA rules stipulate because of Hicks’ addition to the St. John’s staff, the school can not add any players from Rice or the New York Gauchos for two years.
That means no Kadeem Jack or Jermaine Sanders. Jack is a 6-foot-9 senior forward with offers from Arkansas, Arizona, UConn, St. John’s and Miami. He’ll be headed to prep school at South Kent (Conn.) for a year before heading to college.
But the payoff is obvious for the Johnnies. Add a direct portal to the city’s most lush talent pipeline, which in two years can begin funneling to SJU.
Syracuse, UConn and Villanova have dominated the Northeast recruiting landscape recently. St. John’s has been an afterthought. It may not turn around immediately for the Johnnies. But Lavin may be smarter than his ESPN persona would indicate.