By Vin Parise
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New York, NY (WFAN) — When St. John’s Athletic Director Chris Monasch plucked Steve Lavin away from ESPN in March, there was no question that St. John’s finally won a press conference. And Lavin wasted no time getting to work back in the spring. His cell phone was constantly glued to his ear while selling his program, and he lived out of a suitcase in a plush NYC hotel. And when a new head coach without local ties or a coaching staff lands a job…you can only imagine how Lavin was bombarded by resumes and phone calls. Not to mention every hoops expert from the area supposedly knew best who the Californian should hire. But the more time you spend with this man it is clear that behind the Hollywood smile, there is a throwback coach who is going to do what he wants.
He hired Mike Dunlap, Rico Hines and Tony Chiles. Besides the fact that every recruit knows Lavin’s face from his ESPN stint, the assistant coaches bring head coaching experience, NBA resumes and strong metropolitan area ties. For years all we’ve heard is that St. John’s needs to keep kids home. Wrong, St. John’s needs to land good players and win. Lavin and Co. will recruit from Queens to Los Angeles and it has shown in their recruiting class thus far. Talented players locally and nationally have created a major recruiting buzz for the Red Storm recently.
And that’s not the only theme that has changed in Lavin Land.
Last season the Red Storm practiced from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily because that’s what worked best around the class schedules. These days practice is at 6 a.m. and the afternoons are now free for the players to get extra work in on their own. And most importantly to Lavin, the afternoons and evenings are now free for the staff to recruit more.
After speaking with some players and the coaching staff, there are many qualities that have made Lavin a hit so far in the St. John’s community. So what are they?
* Enthusiasm and work ethic is at an all time high in practice. Lavin can yell with the best of them but mostly chooses the positive route.
* Lavin’s mantra has been about staying focused. He never gets too high and never gets too low. Remaining level headed has been a theme for his veterans.
* Practices are supposedly scheduled down to the second and resemble the organization and detail of an NFL practice.
* There is as much teaching going on in the film room as there is on the basketball court this preseason.
* The constant salesman, Lavin has been a hit at alumni events and in a short amount of time and has won over a slew of NYC recruits and coaches already.
Here are some quotes from Lavin yesterday at St. John’s Media Day-
“Our schedule this year is by far the most difficult in my 16 years of Division 1 basketball.”
“I thought it was vital to play a tough road game before Big East play begins. If we don’t play St. Mary’s on the road, we’ll be going into West Virginia, Providence and Notre Dame without any road experience.”
“Dwight Hardy is as good as any shooter I’ve ever coached.”
– I’m hearing that Hardy has been the best player in practice so far for the Red Storm. He’s playing terrific basketball.
– And don’t be surprised if you see the Red Storm play small a lot this season like Villanova does. The coaching staff has been thrilled with the guards and wings recently.
– Center Norvell Pelle from Compton visits this weekend. Pelle loves the staff and school. Don’t be surprised if he commits during or shortly after his visit.
– Vin Parise is the College Basketball Blogger for WFAN.COM and he writes his own blog at VPHOOPS.COM. Parise is a college basketball analyst for MSG-Varsity and Cox Sports in New England. He is also the host of the popular “Tip Off Show” which covers the Providence Friars & Rhode Island Rams throughout the season. Parise has also done radio and television work for the MAAC & NEC. A regular guest in and out of studio with WFAN’s Marc Malusis & Richard Neer, Parise is best known for regulary breaking down the brackets of March Madness with Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno on the Midday Show.