On April 8, St. John's announced that its coach, Steve Lavin, had been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. This is scary stuff, no matter where one is in the diagnostic process. But Lavin handled it breezily. He expressed his gratitude for his early detection and said he planned on coaching through the trial. He had already led St. John's to one of its best seasons in recent memory while dealing with the disease, and he didn't seem at all discouraged. To be honest, I forgot Lavin had cancer in the first place.
A solemn reminder was delivered this weekend, when St. John's hosted its first media availability of the 2011-12 season. Lavin praised his team, but also discussed his own health. Unfortunately, the coach is entering a new, more serious phase of cancer treatment, one that will require either surgery or radiation treatments to battle the malicious cells:
Lavin -- in consultation with his doctors -- had elected to monitor the disease without taking more proactive steps to combat it. But now he is weighing whether to have surgery or try radiation treatments, and he expects to make a decision and commence treatment within the first 10 days of October.
"After the most recent consultation, my doctors feel at this point that the active surveillance approach is off the table," Lavin said Saturday. "So that narrows the treatment options to surgery or radiation. The advantage of early detection is that we have these options that can assist in leading to a cancer-free life."
What's truly remarkable is that Lavin plans on continuing to coach. He expects to make a decision about treatment some time before Oct. 14, the Midnight Madness-marked start of official practice, and he insists that the treatments won't affect his ability to do his job.
It's going to be that kind of year at St. John's, one in which everything hasn't quite gone according to plan -- including the eligibility of three highly touted members of the 2011 freshman class. But if anyone is an example of how you can roll with the punches, it's the team's indomitable head coach.