Reaction: Steve Lavin out at St. John's


The Steve Lavin era at St. John's ended Friday, as the two parties "mutually agreed to part ways" according to a statement released by the school.

Some quick thoughts:

Why did it happen: Lavin had one year left on his contract -- St. John's had to make a decision on him now, or else he would have been a lame duck, which would have made recruiting exceedingly difficult.

The Red Storm won 21 games this season and returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. But they lost their final three games -- an embarrassing blowout at Villanova to end the regular season, another blowout against Providence in their Big East tournament opener, and a double-digit loss to San Diego State in the Big Dance.

Lavin also took St. John's to the NCAA tournament in his first year, albeit with predecessor Norm Roberts' players. And he landed one of the best recruiting classes in the country the following year. But the program has underachieved since, with just two NIT appearances in the next three years and this season's first-round NCAA exit.

St. John's was paying Lavin a hefty salary, and expected more. The bulk of this season's team is graduating. Only two key pieces remain, rising junior Rysheed Jordan and rising senior Chris Obekpa -- and Obekpa, suspended for the NCAA tournament game reportedly for failing a drug test, will probably transfer or go pro. And only one prominent recruit had been reeled in for next season.

Lavin's goal was to build this program into a perennial NCAA tournament team again. Instead, the Red Storm are back to square one, facing a major rebuild in 2015-16. Lavin had his chance. Now it's time to give someone else a crack.

What does it mean: The St. John's administration still believes the Red Storm can do better -- and that's a good thing. The school wasn't satisfied with a couple of cameos in the Big Dance in five years.

St. John's may never again reach the level it was at in the mid-1980s under Lou Carnesecca. And the current Big East is a shell of its former self. But that doesn't mean the Red Storm can't get to the NCAA tournament on a regular basis, and win games in it.

The school resides in the media capital of the world. The team plays the majority of its home games at Madison Square Garden. And the program is one of the most storied in college basketball history -- eighth all time in wins in Division I.

What's next: A national coaching search. St. John's legends Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson are possibilities, as are up-and-coming young coaches like Danny and Bobby Hurley.

Mullin and Jackson would surely thrill many alumni. But Mullin has never coached before, and Jackson has only coached in the NBA -- so there's some risk there.

The Hurley brothers are off to promising starts in their coaching careers. But Danny hasn't gotten to the NCAA tournament yet in five years at Wagner and Rhode Island, and Bobby, who just took Buffalo to the Big Dance, was in just his second year as a head coach.

There is no perfect candidate. But St. John's will want to make a splash. It needs to, if it's going to reignite mass interest for the Johnnies in this city.