Head Coach Has Red Storm Likely A Win Or Two Away From NCAA Tournament Berth

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The St. John’s men’s basketball program is quietly getting back to being what it once was.

Steve Lavin deserves a lot of of the credit.

The school seems to agree as the sides are negotiating a new six-year extension, the NY Post reported Friday.

“We are pleased with the progress our basketball program has made. I look forward to being the coach at St. John’s for the long-term,” Lavin told the Daily News. “At this point our full attention is on having a strong finish to this season, which in turn will help our recruiting efforts as we move forward.”

Lavin currently has two years left on the contract he signed back in 2010, at $1.45 million annually.

“It is an appropriate time to discuss an extension,” St. John’s athletic director Chris Monasch told the News through a school spokesman. “We have certainly had preliminary talks and look forward to revisiting the matter at the conclusion of the season.”

Lavin, 49, coached seven seasons at UCLA, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament five times, before being let go after the Bruins went 10-19 in 2002-03. He then spent seven years as an analyst for ESPN before being lured to Queens.

St. John’s went 21-12 and advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2010-11, Lavin’s first season. It marked the first time the hallowed basketball program had reached 20 wins in seven years and its first tournament appearance in nine years.

The Red Storm went a combined 30-35 over the next two seasons, but part of the reason was due to Lavin being diagnosed with prostate cancer and missing basically all of the 2011-12 season while young players were just learning the ropes.

St. John’s started slowly this season, but eventually responded, going 19-11 (9-8) heading into Saturday’s Big East regular-season finale at Marquette. At present, the Red Storm are firmly on the bubble of making it into the NCAA tournament, but a win over the Golden Eagles (17-13, 9-8) and then a win or two in the Big East tournament next week at Madison Square Garden will likely put them back in the field of 68.

“What we need to be able to do now is punch through, and make the NCAA tournament on a regular basis,” Lavin told the Post on Wednesday. “We play a nationally competitive schedule. We’re playing on national TV in every game. We’re attracting top 10 recruiting classes and players that are gonna have the opportunity to play at the next level. And we play in the greatest venue in the world in Madison Square Garden.”

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