Steve Lavin had a much publicized battle with cancer last year. Missing most of the 2011-12 campaign(coached for four games), the Lavin-less St. John’s Red Storm just didn’t look, or win, the same way. All of that changed yesterday when Lavin returned to the bench in the Johnnies season opener against the Detroit Titans.
Lavin didn’t just return to the Red Storm he took the bull by its horns. In a disciplinary move Lavin had his best player, D’Angelo Harrison, start the game on the bench for breaking unspecified team rules. Harrison took the punishment in stride and was the key reason the Johnnies were able to squeeze out a victory. Usually when the star player of a team gets punished in that kind of fashion for a nationally televised game the result wouldn’t be as pretty. But with Lavin, all the he does, goes smoothly.
Lavin wasn’t lost upon the moment either. During the press conference after the game he was asked how he felt after the comeback:
“I think so much of the way I feel is a result of your team and their energy, and feeding off of that synergy,” Lavin said. “Similar to a parent — if your children are lined in the right way and they seem well adjusted and they’re contributing in a meaningful way, then you feel better as a parent. And as a coach, I feel good because this team found a way to get a gritty W.”
Notice how he called St. John’s “your” team to the media. Not his team but the city’s team(including us evil media types). It’s his way with words, to make everyone feel like the most special person in the world, that not only did St. John’s missed but the entire city of New York.
Not all was just an emotional moment for Lavin lovers though. In the same press conference Lavin did touch on the game:
“I think we showed a good, resilient spirit,” Lavin said. “They could have easily gone quietly into the night — when a veteran team like that gets a lead, you’re curious how your team is gonna handle discouragement in the timeouts and on the floor and in their approach. And they found a way to stay together as a group and kind of solve some problems.”
It’s weird how a man who battled cancer can now, thankfully, once again consider turnovers and the like problems. The team just kind of solved their problems by staying together. Lavin can say the same about his ordeal with cancer. He stayed positive with everything he has in his life and just “kind of solve(d) some problems.”
Sometimes a moment can be bigger than the game or its outcome. Lavin returning to the bench was that moment and the college basketball world is better for it.
Welcome back coach Lavin, we are glad to have you back. If he treats this season as he has treated his off the court issues last year, Lavin will likely solve a lot of St. John’s on the court “problems”.
Joe covers the Big East for Rant Sports. Follow him Twitter @JospehNardone