men's basketball team walked off the court of Madison Square
Garden on January 30, 2011, first-year Head Coach
Steve Lavin knew he was working with a special group of
The team had just earned its third victory against a ranked
opponent, blowing out
Duke in impressive fashion, 93-78, before a wild, sold-out home
“I could tell that the guys wanted to do a lot more of this,” Lavin
recalled. “They liked getting the Garden rocking, being on ESPN's
SportsCenter every night. Once these guys started tasting success,
When all was said and done, the 2010-11 Red Storm tallied six
victories over top-25 opponents, finished tied for third in the BIG
EAST conference and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first
time in nine years.
Not too shabby for Lavin's first year at the helm, and a fitting
end to the college careers of the team's 10 senior
The first of
anything is usually the most memorable,” Lavin said, “and I'd say
this past season was as memorable as any I've ever been a part of.
To see this group of seniors, guys that went through some tough
seasons here, be rewarded for all their hard work and loyalty – and
to see the fans appreciate them like they did – inspired everyone
in the program. Those guys took us on a magic carpet ride, a very
exciting journey, and they'll always hold a special place in my
Lavin's senior-laden squad was one of the most experienced in NCAA
history, and it showed: the team's poise in late-game situations
made for some thrilling last-second victories. Who could forget the
buzzer-beater by Justin Brownlee ’11CPS to put away
Georgetown in early January? Or the impeccable baseline lay-in
by Dwight Hardy ’11CPS to narrowly edge out
All of the Red Storm’s seniors contributed to the team’s success:
Brownlee, Hardy, Malik Boothe ’11CPS, Justin Burrell ’11CPS, Kevin
Clark ’11CPS, Dele Coker ’11TCB, Sean Evans ’11CPS, Paris Horne
’11CPS, D.J. Kennedy ’11CPS and Rob Thomas ’11CPS.
These student athletes also made St. John’s proud off the court,
excelling in the classroom and frequently performing community
service. Lavin attended the Commencement Exercises in May to watch
this special group of seniors earn their degrees.
“Seeing those guys graduate with their college degrees was such a
good story,” Lavin said. “That’s what the mission and the aim of
the University is all about: developing great young men and women.
These particular players can feel very proud of the way they
represent St. John’s, their families and especially
In one year, Lavin steered the Johnnies back to national
prominence, energizing the Red Storm fan base and bringing a
noticeable buzz back to Carnesecca Arena, Madison Square Garden and
New York City.
But Lavin has no plans of slowing down. The California native, who
previously spent seven seasons coaching the UCLA Bruins, has
snagged an impressive recruiting class ranked third in the nation
by ESPN. He's eager to showcase his newcomers to the Red Storm
“We've got a very hard-working group coming in, a team that fits
our particular style and brand of play,” Lavin said. “We like to
play up-tempo, put pressure on teams from baseline to baseline and
play high-octane basketball. Next year, you'll see a group of
highly skilled, long, athletic and wiry basketball players that can
create some havoc both in our full-court pressure and in our
Coaching a team comprised of mostly freshmen will be no easy task.
Lavin will be moving from one extreme to the other, from coaching
the most experienced team in the NCAA to the least.
“This will be the most challenging season of my career,” he
explained. “There will be some growing pains, but our hope is that
by February, we'll start to gel and become a very dangerous
opponent, a team that could knock some people off and make some
noise coming down the stretch. But mostly I'm looking two and three
years down the line as we develop a winning culture. Our goal is
sustained success - we don't want to be a one-hit
The fan base has embraced Lavin, and the coach has thoroughly
enjoyed seeing how energized the home crowds have become. Students
hold up LAVINWOOD
signs during games, alluding to the coach's California roots, while
other fans hold posters and signs containing some of Lavin’s most
memorable quotes and phrases.
"You can't help but feed off the electricity of this city and our
fans," Lavin said. "The Johnnies have become such a hot topic, so
whether I'm grabbing some coffee, walking down the street or just
buying groceries, there are always people coming up to me and
wanting to talk basketball. I like the liveliness of our exchanges,
and I appreciate taking with such knowledgeable fans."
With a dynamic recruiting class on the horizon, the future looks
bright for the Red Storm. But Lavin is quick to point out that the
foundation was laid by that first squad he coached in 2011 – that
endearing cast of seniors who thrust St. John's back into the
limelight and brought the program back to the NCAA
“Sometimes you coach a team that you love, but you don’t
necessarily like,” Lavin noted. “There’s a real distinction there.
You love all your teams, but you don’t always enjoy the company of
your players. This group of seniors was so great to work with and
so likable on a personal level – they cared, they had passion, they
were hungry. They had the desire to leave a legacy here and
accomplish something special, and that’s precisely what they