Cancer-free Lavin looks to lead St. John’s hoops back to prominence
Brooklyn, NY, United States (4E Sports) – St. John’s men’s basketball head coach John Lavin said he’s now cancer free and looks forward to guiding the Red Storm back to being a competitive college basketball program again.
The 48-year-old Lavin skipped numerous games last season as he battled prostate cancer.
The Red Storm head coach underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in October of 2011 and returned to coach four games before he stepped away again until he fully recovered.
“Naturally, going through the experience of being diagnosed with cancer — having surgery, recovering, having a setback and now full recuperation — makes you aware of how fragile and precious life is,” Lavin told ESPN Saturday.
Lavin, who steered St. John’s back to the NCAA tournament in his first season, said he learned a valuable lesson during his struggle with cancer.
“And it does put basketball in its proper light. While it’s important and it’s a passion of mine to coach and teach and compete, after this past year, you’re aware that there are more important things,” Lavin added.
The Red Storm struggled last season, finishing with a 13-19 record (6-12 Big East) while dealing with Lavin’s situations and having only six scholarship players.
Star forward Maurice Harkless won the Big East Rookie of the Year during last season’s campaign but he eventually decided to enter the 2012 NBA Draft. Assistant head coach Mike Dunlap, who assumed the coaching role in the absence of Lavin, also left for a head coaching job for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Still, Lavin and St. John’s will be parading seven new players, including ESPN Top 100 recruits JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa, and Jamal Branch (transferee from Texas A&M).
“We’re now closer to what I envisioned when I took the job over in 2010,” Lavin said. “We’re probably a year ahead of schedule in terms of our personnel, but I also temper that statement with the fact that it’s the youngest team I’ve ever coached. Eleven freshmen and sophomores,” Lavin said of the Red Storm.