You would be able to label me a liar if I said I wasn’t a St. John’s Red Storm homer. Not only that, I have always been a fan of Steve Lavin at his other unrealistic expectations filled coaching gig and while with ESPN. I need to get that out of the way as this may come off as an apologetic rant on Lavin’s behalf (which it is).
It is already well-documented, but it is still worth pointing out that in Lavin’s first year with the Johnnies, he did something Norm Roberts could not: take a group of guys who were at best mediocre in the Big East and lead them to the NCAA Tournament. The easy knock would be to say that Lavin did it with Roberts’ players, but the obvious rebuttal would be the ineptness they must have been coached with–proof is under Roberts’ record while with the Red Storm.
The second Lavin-led season should be marked as a wash. The Red Storm coach battled cancer, was barely with the team and was a team composed almost exclusively of new players. The team in which Lavin led to the big dance have all graduated, leaving only freshmen and underused talent at interim coach, Mike Dunlap‘s disposal.
Granted, that second season also had Moe Harkless — a player who would soon be selected in the draft lottery. Even with him, it was not enough to make the Johnnies Big East power-players. To be fair to Lavin though, he was not there to see his or the team’s overall development.
Last season was also mildly disappointing, with another team full of freshmen, an off-again on-again headcase in D’Angelo Harrison and the death of Lavin’s father. This version of the Red Storm showed flashes of brilliance, but that brilliance was also equaled by the team’s ability to lose to some teams in which they were heavily favored.
St. John’s has some real hope for the 2013-14 season. This will be the first Lavin team to have more than one productive player returning to the lineup as well as another great group of Lavin recruited freshmen. Even I, an unapologetic lover of all things Lavin related, know that his fourth season is going to be held to high-standards.
The Johnnies’ presumed starting rotation for the upcoming season is filled with former top-tier recruits, potential conference players of the year and a couple of guys who will inevitably end up playing in the NBA.
For those of you who have been quick to jump off the Lavin bandwagon, I say good riddance. As for everyone else, the 2013-14 version of the Johnnies will likely end up being the team we envisioned when Lavin took over just a few years ago.
Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports who usually avoids writing about the Johnnies for his fear of homerism showing all too much (first step to solving homerism is admitting you are one). Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone