St. John's head men's basketball coach Steve Lavin has been a New Yorker for less than five years, but in that time, he has taken the Big Apple by storm, and has given new meaning to the moniker "the city that never sleeps."
Lavin -- whose 10 full seasons of head coaching has featured nine postseason appearances, including seven NCAA Tournaments, five trips to the NCAA Round of 16 and eight seasons of 20 wins or more -- became the 19th head men's basketball coach in St. John's 100-plus years of storied hardwood tradition on March 30, 2010. After seven years as one of ESPN's premier college basketball analysts, Lavin has spent the last four years in the Empire State revitalizing the foremost college basketball program in the city that has called the game its own for more than a century.
Strengthening the foundation for the program's sustainable success, Lavin has orchestrated a steady rise to national prominence bringing enthusiasm and excitement back to New York City's team. Lavin vaulted the Johnnies into the Big Dance for the first time in nearly a decade, producing three postseason appearances in total, while elevating St. John's to the upper echelon of the BIG EAST Conference with a pair of 20-win campaigns. Academic excellence resonates at the core of the thriving program. Every student-athlete to exhaust eligibly under Lavin's watch at St. John's has left with a degree, a full complement to the on-court achievements.
Lavin has strategically assembled an elite and specialized basketball staff that is among the NCAA's finest, comprised of individuals with NBA coaching experience, a history of national and city championships and roots that have sprung up from each corner of New York City's rich basketball culture and extend not only across the nation, but across the globe.
A diligent and focused recruiter with a blue-collar work ethic, and two No. 1 recruiting classes and one No. 2 class to his credit, Lavin arrived in New York and was faced with the daunting task of filling 10 available scholarships for 2011-12. Shining through a situation unprecedented in the history of contemporary college basketball - he and his staff met the challenge with passion and precision, and landed the consensus No. 3 recruiting class in the nation for 2011-12, a group that ranks among the most-heralded in school history, and the No. 8 class for 2012-13. With only one scholarship available, Lavin signed consensus top 25 prospect Rysheed Jordan, a point guard rated third in his class, nationally, for the 2013-14 season. The future is bright in Queens.
The first four years of The Lavin Era included 10 Top 25 victories with four over Top 10 opponents; two BIG EAST Rookies of the Year, a league Most Improved Player and a Sixth Man of the Year; the first NBA Draft pick in more than a decade and the highest selection since 1992; and a return the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
The 2011 USBWA District II Coach of the Year, Lavin transformed a team that finished in 13th place in the BIG EAST Conference in 2009-10 at 6-12 to a squad that tied for third in 2010-11 at 12-6 - only twice before has a jump of such magnitude occurred in BIG EAST history. The Johnnies finished the season ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25 to qualify for the postseason as a ranked team for the first time since 2000-01. The Red Storm, which posted a 7-1 record in eight regular season games at Madison Square Garden (capacity: 19,353) and a 5-2 record on campus at Carnesecca Arena (capacity: 5,602) in 2010-11, saw its home attendance climb by 38.1 percent, marking the fourth-largest increase in NCAA Division I men's basketball.
In 2012-13 the Red Storm advanced to the Second Round of the National Invitation Tournament and finished its campaign at 17-16. The 2011 NCAA berth and 2013 NIT appearance marked the first time since 2002 and 2003 that St. John's reached the postseason twice in a three-year span under one coach.
Lavin led St. John's to a third postseason appearance in 2013-14 after posting a 20-13 overall record and tying for third in the BIG EAST standings with a 10-8 mark. The Johnnies made their second consecutive trip to the NIT capping the third winning season of the Lavin Era and 84th in program-history.
Lavin's arrival has returned a definite luster to the St. John's program, and the buzz has reverberated throughout the "media capital of the world." As the headlines pile up and a sense of energy and enthusiasm grows among St. John's faithful fanbase, it will be Lavin's strategy, focus and indefatigable work ethic that carry the Red Storm back into the realm of NCAA Tournament success for years to come.
Bruin' Up Success
In Lavin's seven-year tenure as the head coach at UCLA, he compiled a 145-78 overall record (.650) and an 81-48 mark (.628) in regular season Pacific-10 conference play. During his first six campaigns as head coach, UCLA averaged nearly 23 wins per year, advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1997, made five trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 (1997, '98, `00, '01, `02), won the Pacific-10 title (1997) and assembled the nation's No. 1 (1998, 2001) and No. 2 (1997) recruiting classes. Under Lavin, the Bruins were granted six-consecutive NCAA Tournament bids and recorded six-straight seasons of 21 wins or more.
During his time in Westwood, Lavin was one of only two coaches in the country, along with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, to lead his team to five NCAA regional semifinal games (Sweet 16s) in six years. As UCLA's head coach, his career record in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament was 10-1. Lavin's winning percentage (.909) in the first two rounds of the tournament is second only to Dean Smith in NCAA Tournament history. In addition, he is the only head coach in NCAA men's basketball history to lead his team to victory over the No. 1 team in the country in four-consecutive collegiate seasons (Stanford '00, Stanford `01, Kansas `02, Arizona `03).
As UCLA's head coach in 2002, he directed the Bruins to the program's 14th-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, including the sixth-straight under his reign, and a 14th-consecutive season of 20 wins or more at 21-12. During that season, UCLA posted a 7-4 record against ranked opponents, and rattled off a nine-game win streak.
In 2001, Lavin earned Pacific-10 Coach of the Year honors and led UCLA to the NCAA Regional Semifinal for the fourth time in five years, with a 23-9 record. The Bruins strung together an eight-game winning streak from Jan. 25 through March 1, and posted a record of 19-5 in their last 24 games. UCLA compiled a 14-4 record in Pac-10 play, and defeated No. 1 Stanford (79-73, Feb. 3 in Palo Alto) on its home floor for the second-straight season (it is believed Lavin is only the second coach in collegiate history to record consecutive wins on the home floor of a No. 1 ranked team -- USC's Bob Boyd won at No. 1 UCLA in 1969 and '70).
In 2000, the Bruins played in the NCAA Sweet 16 for the third time in four seasons and entered the Midwest Region Semifinal game with an eight-game winning streak. A season earlier, UCLA was the second-youngest team in the nation and entered the 1999 NCAA Tournament with a 22-8 overall record after finishing third in the Pac-10. In 1998, the Bruins were 24-9 overall, placed third in the Pac-10 and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
During Lavin's first year, a 1996-97 season that began in turmoil, Lavin and his staff provided direction and leadership and guided the Bruins to within one game of the NCAA Final Four and to UCLA's third-consecutive Pac-10 crown. UCLA finished the season 24-8 overall and won the conference championship, then its 27th in school history, with a 15-3 record. Prior to the start of the 1996-97 season, Lavin was entering his sixth year on the Bruin staff, his second as a full-time assistant and his first as UCLA's Recruiting Coordinator. On Nov. 6, 1996, Lavin was given the Bruins' interim head coaching position at the age of 32, making him the fifth-youngest major college head basketball coach in the country at the time.
Lavin is the only coach in UCLA history to win at least 22 games in each of his first three seasons and also the only coach to win at least 70.0 percent of his games in each of his first three years. He was the first UCLA head coach since Gary Cunningham in 1978 (25-3) and '79 (25-5) to record back-to-back seasons of at least 24 wins (1996-97: 24-8; 1997-98: 24-9). During Lavin's 12 years on the UCLA coaching staff as a head or assistant coach, the Bruins won the NCAA title in 1995 and four Pacific-10 titles (1992, '95, '96, `97), along with 11-consecutive 20-plus win seasons and 11-consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, including three Elite Eight appearances (1997, '95, '92) and four Sweet 16 appearances (1998, 2000, `01, `02).
Lavin has been particularly successful during March Madness as a head coach, with a seven-year NCAA Tournament record of 11-7 (.611). Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only Lavin (1997, `98) and Gonzaga's Mark Few (2000, `01) advanced to the Sweet 16 in each of their first two seasons as a Division I head mentor. During his time as the head coach or as an assistant at both Purdue and UCLA, Lavin's teams qualified for 13-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (1990-2002; 11-straight at UCLA and two, 1990 and `91, while on the staff at Purdue under Gene Keady). Lavin was an assistant coach on the Bruins' 1995 national championship team that completed the season with a 32-1 record.
In 2011, as the No. 6 seed in the NCAA Southeast Region, St. John's fell to No. 11 Gonzaga in the second round.
In 2002, in the West Region in Pittsburgh, Pa., No. 8 seed UCLA defeated No. 9 Mississippi 80-58, and in one of the most exciting games in NCAA Tournament history, the Bruins defeated No. 1 seed Cincinnati 105-101 in double overtime in the second round, to advance to a fifth-straight Sweet 16.
In 2001, in the East Region in Greensboro, N.C., the No. 4 seed Bruins defeated No. 13 Hofstra, 61-48 in the first round, and No. 12 seed Utah State, 75-50, in the second round, to advance to the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia. (The Bruins were defeated by No. 1 Duke, the eventual national champions, 76-63).
In 2000, as the No. 6 seed in the NCAA Midwest Region, UCLA advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, beating No. 11 Ball State, 65-57, and No. 3 Maryland, 105-70, before losing to No. 2 seed Iowa State, 80-56.
In 1999, the Bruins were a No. 5 seed in the NCAA South Region and fell in the first round.
In 1998, the No. 6 seed Bruins advanced to the NCAA South Region Sweet 16, by topping No. 11 Miami (Fla.), 65-62, and No. 3 Michigan, 85-82, in the First and Second Rounds, before losing to No. 2 seed and eventual national champion Kentucky, 94-68.
In 1997, the Bruins were one game away from the Final Four in Lavin's first season as head coach. In the first two rounds of the NCAA Midwest Regional at Auburn Hills, Mich., No. 2 seed UCLA defeated No. 15 Charleston Southern, 109-75, and No. 7 seed Xavier, 96-83. In San Antonio, Texas, the Bruins downed No. 6 Iowa State, 74-73, in overtime, to reach the Elite Eight. The Bruins would fall in the Midwest Region final to top-seeded Minnesota, 80-72.
With his deep tournament runs, Lavin became the only Bruin head mentor since John Wooden to win multiple tournament games five times in six years. Wooden accomplished the feat in 1971 (four wins and an NCAA Title), 1972 (four wins and an NCAA title), 1973 (four wins and an NCAA title), 1974 (three wins) and 1975 (five wins, his 10th NCAA crown). In 1998, UCLA's second-consecutive Sweet 16 marked the first time a Bruin squad advanced as far since the 1979 and '80 seasons. The Bruins were one of just six teams to reach the Sweet 16 in both 1997 and '98 (Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, Stanford and Utah).
Elite Recruiting Classes
Through diligence, precision and a focused strategy, Lavin has built a reputation as one of the nation's strongest recruiters. With a pair of No. 1 recruiting classes, one No. 2 class and eight McDonald's All-Americans on his resume, it is evident that Lavin's workmanlike methodology has paid off. Named to ESPN's list of toughest NCAA coaches to recruit against, Lavin immediately inked consecutive top-10 classes in his first two years at St. John's, including a 2011 group that became his fourth-ever top 5 national class.
In 1997, the Bruins signed the nation's No. 2 class, led by prep National Player of the Year Baron Davis, and included Rico Hines, Billy Knight, Todd Ramasar and Earl Watson. Davis and Watson are currently in their second decade enjoying NBA careers, while Hines would eventually coach in the league and join Lavin as an assistant at St. John's.
In 1998, UCLA landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, led by three McDonald's All-Americans in Dan Gadzuric, JaRon Rush and Ray Young. Gadzuric's professional career lasted 11 years in the NBA.
In the fall of 2001, UCLA's incoming freshman group, comprised of McDonald's All-American Cedric Bozeman, Michael Fey, Andre Patterson and Dijon Thompson, was named the No. 1 class in the nation by Sports Illustrated.
In 2003, Trevor Ariza became the eighth McDonald's All-American during Lavin's seven seasons as UCLA's head coach, joining Evan Burns (2002), Bozeman (2001), Jason Kapono (1999), Gadzuric (1998), Rush (1998), Young (1998) and Baron Davis (1997).
In 2011, St. John's welcomed the consensus No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, which featured NBA players Maurice Harkless (15th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft) and JaKarr Sampson, as well as current seniors D'Angelo Harrison (2014 All-BIG EAST First Team & Haggerty Award recipient), Phil Greene IV and Sir'Dominic Pointer.
With The Game On The Line
Lavin's grand success as a recruiter does not diminish his ability as an in-game strategist and proven winner. Lavin's squads simply close out contests, and have recorded a 173-11 mark when holding the lead with five minutes to play. Lavin also owns a 15-8 record in overtime, including a nine-game OT win streak from 1997 to 2002. Further, Lavin-coached teams are 8-2 in overtime against ranked teams.
Lavin's impressive overtime record includes a pair of NCAA Tournament extra-session victories: a 74-73 win over No. 18 Iowa State in the 1997 Sweet 16 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and a 105-101 double-overtime toppling of No. 5 Cincinnati in the 2001 NCAA Second Round at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena.
As one of the most-successful coaches in the nation, Lavin is not without his share of coaching accolades. At the conclusion of his first season at St. John's, Lavin was named the 2011 District II Coach of the Year by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award.
In March 2001, Lavin was named the Pacific-10 Coach of the Year in his fifth season as head mentor of the Bruins. In 1998 and 1999, Lavin was announced as a candidate for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award. At the 1998 Final Four in San Antonio, he was the head coach of the West squad in the NABC All-Star Game.
Following the 1997-98 season, Lavin was honored by his alma mater as the Chapman University Alumnus of the Year. He also serves on Chapman's Board of Governors.
On Oct. 1, 1998, Lavin was roasted at an event called "Hoop La" to benefit the American Diabetes Association, held at Madison Square Garden. Invited guests included head coaches Mike Jarvis (then at St. John's), John Calipari (then at Memphis) and Keady (then at Purdue), television commentators Bill Walton and Billy Packer, along with Earvin `Magic' Johnson and actor Kevin Bacon. Previous honorees at the ADA event include Villanova's Rollie Massimino, Louisville's Rick Pitino, Georgia Tech and the College of Charleston's Bobby Cremins, Maryland's Gary Williams, FOX Sports and Seton Hall's Bill Raftery, ESPN and Notre Dame's Digger Phelps, Seton Hall's P.J. Carlesimo, Virginia's Pete Gillen and Calipari.
In fall 1998, Lavin became an honorary member of the Golden Key National Honor Society at UCLA.
For his efforts in 1996-97, Lavin was named the Basketball Times National Rookie Coach of the Year, along with the NABC District 15 and USBWA District 9 Coach of the Year. On Oct. 21, 1997, at the Hugh O'Brien Youth Foundation Awards Dinner in Los Angeles, Lavin was presented the International Inspiration Award. The award is given annually to those who "have profoundly inspired others by their character, by their values and by their actions." Past recipients of the HOBY International Inspiration Award include Muhammad Ali and Tommy Lasorda.
Learning From the Best
Prior to his experience at UCLA as a head and assistant coach, Lavin was a graduate assistant (1988-91) and staff member at Purdue University for three seasons under Gene Keady.
Lavin has worked for and studied under some of the most recognized defensive coaches in the country - former Texas Tech and Indiana head coach Bob Knight, Duke's Krzyzewski, former Fresno State head coach Jerry Tarkanian, longtime NBA assistant Tim Grgurich, Hall of Famer Pete Newell and California Junior College Hall of Famer Bud Presley - in addition to his three years with the Purdue Hall of Famer.
While at Purdue, Lavin assisted with all aspects of the Boilermaker program. Purdue advanced to the NCAA Tournament in both 1990 and '91. During his three seasons in West Lafayette, Ind., Purdue was 54-36 overall, including a 22-8 mark in 1989-90 when the Boilermakers were the Big-10 runner-up and ranked No. 6 by USA Today. As a key member of Keady's staff at Purdue, Lavin assisted at the 1989 U.S. World University Team trials (the team won the gold medal in West Germany) and the 1991 U.S. Pan American Team trials (the squad won the bronze medal).
Lavin has been a summer camp and coaches' clinic speaker throughout the country, specializing in defense, footwork and motivation.
From 1992-96, as a consultant/advisor, he traveled to Korea and worked with both the Korean National and Samsung professional teams. Lavin has also been involved with the Japanese National basketball program and traveled to Japan in the summer of 1996.
Champions of Worthy Charities
Lavin and his wife, Mary, have been catalysts in engaging the St. John's men's basketball team in causes aligned with the University's Vincentian values. Lavin is involved in extensive charity, fundraising and public speaking events throughout the year, particularly in the offseason. In 2012 he delivered the commencement address at the St. John's graduation ceremonies for both the Queens and Staten Island campuses.
Lavin has been involved with numerous charities throughout his coaching career, including Make-A-Wish, Coaches vs. Cancer, City of Hope, the Jimmy V Foundation, the USO and the Special Olympics. Since arriving at St. John's, the Lavins have adopted the Bread and Life Soup Kitchen in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. In an October 2010 ceremony with Brooklyn-born then-redshirt senior Rob Thomas, Steve Starker of BTIG Brokerage and Anthony Butler, Executive Director of St. John's Bread & Life, the Lavins made a $35,000, multi-year pledge to aid New York City's homeless and hungry. In 2011, the Lavins were honored with The Johnny's Angel Award celebrating their contributions to the Bread and Life Soup Kitchen.
For two decades, Lavin has been highly involved with both Coaches vs. Cancer, a foundation that Lavin has raised more than $1.5 million for since 2010, and The V Foundation for Cancer Research, where he has participated in numerous fundraising and awareness events. Lavin is part of The V Foundation President's Club contributing more than $50,000 to the organization. He is joined on this leadership giving group by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Kentucky's John Calipari. Lavin was presented the Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award in 2014, an annual honor awarded to a coach who has engaged vigorously in the Coaches vs. Cancer program's fundraising, education and promotional initiatives.
Lavin leads fans and the Red Storm men's and women's basketball teams through the annual University Service Day "Dribble for the Cure" event at St. John's, which has seen more than 1,000 combined participants raise a total of more than $155,000 from 2011-14. The events raise funding and awareness for pediatric cancer research in the New York City area. For his efforts, Lavin was honored with the Dream Big Award in 2014 by the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF).
Behind The Mic
In March of 2003, after 12 years on the UCLA staff, Lavin posted his first losing season as a head coach (10-19) and was relieved of his duties. Shortly thereafter, Lavin was signed to a multi-year contract with ESPN and ABC, where he served as a nationally-recognized analyst on both game and studio broadcasts for "The Worldwide Leader in Sports."
Lavin served as a college basketball analyst on ABC and ESPN for seven years, largely working alongside legendary broadcasting partner Brent Musburger, and successful play-by-play man Dave O'Brien. Lavin has provided color commentary and expertise on ESPN's coverage of the NBA Pre Draft Camp as well as the NBA Draft.
Lavin continues to be a frequently invited keynote speaker throughout the country for business, community and collegiate events. He addresses a wide range of topics including effective communication, motivation, management, recruiting, leadership, and naturally, college basketball.
As a collegiate player, Lavin transferred to Chapman University from San Francisco State in 1984, playing under Lyle Damon at San Francisco State, and then at State and Chapman under Kyle Wilson. In 1984, as a sophomore at San Francisco State, Lavin earned the team's Scholar-Athlete Award and the Gators were 21-11 overall, ranked No. 5 in the country and NCAA Div. II Western Region Champs. During his senior season at Chapman in 1986-87, he was the team captain and earned the squad's Leadership Award. Lavin graduated from Chapman in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in communications.
As a high school player, Lavin was a member of the highly successful basketball program at Sir Francis Drake in San Anselmo, Calif., under famed mentor Pete Hayward. During the 1981 and '82 prep seasons, Drake won two state titles and amassed an overall record of 65-1, including 57-straight wins.
Lavin's late father, Cap Lavin, was inducted into the San Francisco Prep Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and is a 1997 honoree of the University of San Francisco Hall of Fame. Cap Lavin was a three-time (1946-48) all-city performer at St. Ignatius High School, and went on to earn three varsity letters (1950-52) and serve as the basketball team's captain at the University of San Francisco. While at San Francisco, Cap Lavin played for two Naismith Hall of Fame coaches, Pete Newell (1949-50) and Phil Woolpert (1950-52). A collegiate guard, Newell described Cap Lavin as a "ballhandler way ahead of his time, one of the great dribblers and passers in the game."
In 1997, Cap Lavin retired after 43 years as an English teacher (at Cal-Berkeley, San Francisco State and Dominican College), including 40 years at Sir Francis Drake HS. At Cal-Berkeley, Cap was co-founder and director of the University of California Bay Area Writing Project, which established the National Writing Center at Berkeley and over 200 writing centers at university sites throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Married for six decades, Cap Lavin and his wife, Mary, have six children - Rachel, John, Mark, Ken and Suzanne, in addition to their youngest child, Steve. Steve Lavin's brother-in-law, John Moore, is the head basketball coach at Westmont College in Santa Barbara and is married to Lavin's sister, Rachel.
On Aug. 17, 2007, Lavin was married to Mary Ann Jarou, a professional actress who has made television series appearances on "How I Met Your Mother," "General Hospital," "Entourage," "Brothers and Sisters," "Secret Girlfriend," and appropriately, "King of Queens."
Steve Lavin was born on Sept. 4, 1964 in San Francisco. He and Mary Jarou now live in Manhattan.