NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For whatever reason, Steve Lavin struggles in March — and he knows it.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday following yet another early exit from the Big East Tournament, St. John’s head coach surprised many by admitting he’s not at his best when his team needs him to be.
“I don’t think it’s (my team). I’m just a poor Big East, I’m a poor conference tournament coach. We didn’t have one at UCLA either,” Lavin said. “Probably the trend in the racing form is I don’t think I’ve ever won a conference tournament game as a coach in the Pac-10 or the Big East. I don’t think it has anything to do with our players.”
Actually, Lavin had one conference tournament win in seven seasons at UCLA and has just one in five seasons at St. John’s — and that one, along with the Red Storm’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, came back during his first season, 2010-11. Lavin did not coach in the postseason during his second season due to a bout with cancer.
In fairness, Lavin did fine in the NCAA Tournament at UCLA, reaching the Sweet 16 five times and the Elite Eight once. But all that happened a long time ago.
St. John’s (21-11) appears to be a lock to make the field of 68 this season, but there’s no doubt this is an enigmatic bunch. The Red Storm started out with 11 wins in their first 12 and were ranked as high as No. 15 in the AP Top 25 before a run of seven losses in their next 10 threatened to sink their season.
Then, in true Jekyll and Hyde form, Lavin’s team won seven of its next eight, only to get destroyed by No. 4 Villanova, 105-68, in the regular season finale before losing 74-57 to Providence in the Big East quarterfinals.
The latter defeat was especially disheartening considering the Red Storm beat the Friars in the teams’ two regular season meetings.
“I thought we were tentative — you know, tentative, hesitant,” Lavin said. “There’s a lid on the rim, but sometimes that comes from the nerves of the postseason.”
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on Sunday night. According to CBSSports.com’s Bracketology, St. John’s is currently projected to be a No. 7 seed.