Steve Lavin: Sideline return 'premature'

Updated: November 29, 2011, 1:40 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

St. John's coach Steve Lavin will not coach the Red Storm against top-ranked Kentucky Thursday in Lexington or any other game until he regains the necessary stamina from major prostate cancer surgery, Lavin told ESPN.com Monday night.

Lavin underwent prostate cancer surgery on Oct. 6, but the seven-hour procedure was extensive and zapped Lavin of his strength. Lavin returned to coach after missing the team's season opener against William & Mary on Nov. 7. Lavin coached four straight games, home games against Lehigh and UMBC on campus in Queens (both wins) and then two games at Madison Square Garden, against Arizona and Texas A&M (two losses).

Lavin then sat out home games against St. Francis (N.Y.) -- a win -- and Northeastern -- a loss -- last week. The team was coached by assistant coach Mike Dunlap.

"I'm cancer free but now recognize I set myself back with a premature return to the sidelines," Lavin said.

Lavin said he sensed early in the Lehigh game on Nov. 9 that he timed his comeback too early.

"I was hoping with each subsequent game that my stamina would improve but instead it regressed," Lavin said. "It became clear that presently I have not recovered enough from surgery to lead the team through the toil of a game. After consulting with Dr Scardino we decided to modify my coaching duties."

Lavin said he made sure he was around the program in other lower-stress activities and continued to recruit, hold coaching meetings and act as a general manager of the program.

"Attending practice to take notes and share thoughts with the team isn't taxing, sitting in the stands at a high school game or practice to evaluate a prospect isn't taxing," Lavin said. "Going to dinner with a donor isn't taxing. At this stage of my recuperation it's the game coaching that presents the biggest challenge."

The Red Storm go to Detroit on Dec. 5 after the Kentucky game where the court will be named for ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale. The Red Storm are 4-3 and have an inexperienced roster with a host of newcomers.

"The good news is being cancer free," Lavin said. "That was the objective of the surgery. But it would not be prudent at this juncture to return to the sidelines and jeopardize my long term health. It's not fair to the team if I coach in games when not yet having the necessary strength for competing at the highest level of college basketball."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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