Since Steve Lavin took over as head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm back in 2010, his presence has been strongly felt as the catalyst behind their surge back into relevancy. Unfortunately, Lavin’s much noted absence has been felt just as much, even as recently as this past Sunday.
While the third-year coach has been cancer-free this season (he missed 28 of the teams 32 games in the 2011-12 campaign), he left the team prior to Sunday’s loss at No. 9 Syracuse to be with his family after the death of his father. It is uncertain as to whether or not he’ll be on the bench for the Johnnies game Thursday night at No. 12 Louisville.
Despite suffering their worst loss of the season (19 points, tied with their November road loss at the hands of Baylor) Sunday, the young Red Storm players are ready to rally together to show their support for their mourning coach.
“I think this could bring us together,” sophomore Amir Garrett told the New York Daily News after their latest loss. While D’Angelo Harrison added that he thinks the team will rally around Lavin, Garrett continued to reflect his coach’s attitude in this trying time. “You can’t take your loved ones for granted – coach tells us that every time…You have to cherish each and every individual in your family. This is a basketball family and we have to cherish each other.”
Despite being comprised of mainly freshman and sophomores, guys like Garrett, Harrison and freshman JaKarr Sampson are growing into leaders on Lavin’s talented roster. Their head coach has been appreciative of the support he’s received from his St. John’s family.
“We are grateful for the heartfelt encouragement, prayers and support received since our father’s passing,” said an emotional Lavin. A glass half-full guy through and through, the San Francisco native also shared some enthusiasm for returning to his team as well as hope for the future. “Moving forward, it will now be the inspiring memories of my father that will serve as a catalyst to pursue better ways to navigate the ‘bittersweet miracle that is life.”
I wouldn’t count on Lavin for Thursday night, but don’t count his team out for this Big East dogfight.
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