A Column of Enchantment: The Mystery of Steve Lavin’s Future

Posted by Joseph Nardone on February 5th, 2015

(Ed. Note: quotes may or may not be verbatim. Or accurate.) 

It is not another typical day at the St. John’s campus. Something seems different. Maybe it is the dark clouds that hover in the air, or the students walking around, seemingly faceless and unhappy. Possibly it is the basketball team that is strutting around aimlessly, daydreaming about the things that could have been. Nevertheless, something is strange at 8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, NY. Some will say it shouldn’t be that way. St. John’s is a fine school. It enrolls nearly 21,000 kids despite only accepting about half of the people who apply to attend such a fine university. Still, there’s whispers of a big change coming. Not from an academic standpoint, though. A possible looming change could be what is making everyone seem, if not on edge, a bit too sad.


A man named Steve Lavin is the current face of St. John’s. Steve typically wears fine suits with a pair of sneakers because he treasures comfort as much as he does style. Slicked back hair, slightly pudgy but certainly not fat, Steve has been helping mold young minds at the program for nearly five years. He came to St. John’s after years as a TV personality and before that as a molder of young minds over on the West Coast. Steve is a very likable fellow. He has always had a reputation of getting the best of the best to enroll at whatever school he was affiliated with at that particular moment, but things haven’t quite worked out that way since joining the big New York university. Sure, Steve has shown some glimpses of brilliance that made the people within the university fall in love with him in the first place, yet that era of him being all that and a bag of recruiting potato chips has seemingly passed.

St. Johns coach Steve Lavin

Steve Lavin and Chris Monasch in Happy Times (NY Post)

He isn’t a broken man, though. No one keeps a good guy like Steve down. Few people have been through as much as he on a personal level over the last few years. Still, St. John’s brought him in to do a specific job and he hasn’t lived up to his end of the bargain. It wasn’t always that way. When Steve first took over the basketball program he had a slew of kids brought in by another man, Norm Roberts. Norm and Steve could not have been any different — Steve coming from a high-profile program and gig while Norm coming from the land of lesser known places of higher education. However, where Norm failed to bring St. John’s, Steve did in his very first year with the program. All in all, because of Steve’s immediate success. many thought their basketball program was on the way back up.


There’s a note on Steve’s desk this morning. It reads: “Steve, we need to talk. Sincerely, Chris Monasch.” Chris is the boss. The head honcho of all things related to sports at St. John’s. Often mentioned as a kind man, who by all accounts really likes Steve and wants him to succeed if for no other reason than Steve being a good person, Chris has been under a different kind of pressure than the head basketball coach. People are starting to implore Chris, through newspapers, new media and social media, to look at the future of the St. John’s basketball program through a different lens. It is that pressure from the outside which has resulted in such a note landing on Steve’s desk.


Steve walks slowly towards Chris’ office. Wearing his typical suit and sneakers with a finely combed — yet, somehow, magically wet-looking — slicked back hair, he knocks on the door three times.

“Come in.” says Chris. “We have a lot of things to discuss.”

Walking even slower for some reason, possibly for dramatic purposes, Steve finely makes his way to where Chris is sitting.

“Take a seat, Steve. Would you like something to drink?” a saddened looking Chris almost whispers.

“No, Chris.” Steve says sheepishly. “I just had my morning protein shake.”

The two men are looking at each other. Steve looks puzzled, a little afraid, but still not sure why he has been called to his employer’s office. On the other end of the picture-framed full desk Chris thinks he knows where this conversation is headed. Despite really liking Steve, he knows that pressure is mounting on him to make a decision, one that could alter the school’s history for years to come, but one that could ultimately save his own job.

“Things haven’t exactly gone has planned. Maybe you should try to explain to me why our basketball program seems to be heading in the other direction,” a tired looking Chris says in a manner Steve had never heard him speak.

“It is still early in the season. The guys are still growing together…” as Steve tries to continue. Chris interrupts him.

“Lavin, gosh slammit.” Chris yelling now, with his forehead veins protruding from their regular location on his cranium. “You have one of the most experienced teams in the entire {expletive} country. D’Angelo just scored 2,000 points. Kids don’t do that unless they have been with a school for years. We aren’t even mentioning Phil, Sir’ and Jamal. Even Chris and Rysheed have had plenty of time with the program!”

Both men have now realized that this conversation is going to be different than the two have ever had before. Instead of talking with Steve, for the very first time, Chris is talking at him.


Elsewhere on campus Phil, D’Angelo, Rysheed, Sir’, Chris and Jamal are sitting together on the steps leading into their practice facility. The other students on campus have nicknamed the group The St. John’s Six. That has as much to do with the six of their St. John’s careers being intertwined as it does that there seems to be no one else who can help Steve keep his job. There have long been rumors of other people in their group, yet no one has seen them for any longer than nine minutes at a clip. Those group of young people also have a nickname: The St. John’s What In The Hell We Have No Depth Rest Of The Team Guys.

The Six (USA Today Images)

The St. John’s Six Huddle (USA Today Images)

Each of The St. John’s Six is unique. D’Angelo is clearly the leader. Despite being picked on by people nationally, he is the second-face of the program, only behind their styling coach. Phil is known as a streaky fellow, sometimes great and other times the opposite. Sir’ is considered the utility man. He can do everything really well, especially within 15-feet of his goals. There’s also Rysheed, who came to the university with huge expectations put on to him by other people. He dreams of bigger things. Things where he can ply his trade for large sums of money. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, he hasn’t delivered enough on a regular basis that future employers have clamored for his services. There’s also Chris, the dramatic member of the group. Immensely talented, Chris makes up for The St. John’s Six’s faults in one particular area by wiping their mistakes away, leaving them with a clean slate. Then there’s Jamal. He’s essentially the sixth member of this group by default.

The whispers on campus have not evaded the ears of the St. John’s Six. The group is sitting there, knowing that people are pointing and possibly blaming them for the predicament Steve currently finds himself, discussing what in the world is going on.

“Man, I can’t believe we are here. That Steve is there. How did this all happen?” a puzzled D’Angelo states to his friends.

“Guys, we just need to remain calm. Things always have a habit of working itself out.” the even-keeled Jamal states.

The group remains sitting there, wondering the future of their leader, when Rysheed tries to speak…

“Well, you know…”

“You are not allowed to talk, Sheed. Between your social media commentary we all know why Steve put a muzzle on you.” says an obviously agitated Sir’.

Then Chris randomly punches one of the guys, falls on the ground violently and looks for a referee who isn’t there to declare a foul on the fictional opponent which also isn’t there.


Back in Chris’ office the mood hasn’t changed. More things are discussed. Things such as the New York Post not being happy with the current product. Chris pointed out the latest headline: “In The Red (Storm), SJU Basketball Nearly Bankrupt”. He also mentioned the growing number of fans who have grown impatient of Lavin’s always positive postgame press conferences. He points out that while it is good to stay positive through tough times that it doesn’t change the fact that the world can see straight past his fake optimism.

“What is the plan then? What would you like me to do? Am I to just walk away from this program that I have been trying to build?” Steve says with a bit more of an agenda.

“Steve, I wish it hadn’t…”, Chris couldn’t even get out his sentence before he is stopped.

“I came here. I came to St. John’s despite the mess Mike Jarvis left behind. I came to this school even after Norm Roberts failed to do anything of consequence here. I brought you to a place you had not seen in a long time in my very first season.”

“But Steve…”

“But nothing! I was sitting in a comfy chair, judging the sport from a distance for large sums of money and you called me. YOU CALLED ME! It was not the other way around… And you, and you think you can fire me? Fire Steve Lavin?!”

Chris is stunned. He had not thought of the conversation taking this sort of turn. He knew Steve took risks coming to New York. That he was sacrificing a good job and credibility to join a program that was seemingly floundering.

“I’m not even close to being done yet.” Lavin states while knowing the tables have turned.

“This is the thanks I get? I came here to help you. To help the school dig itself out of the grave. To NOT be the next DePaul. I’m not Oliver Purnell gosh slammit! I did not come here to just cash checks. I came to get St. John’s out of the cellar of the Big East Conference and by God’s good grace I have!”

Realizing that St. John’s is indeed not DePaul, Chris starts to second-guess himself. I mean, even he realizes things could be worse.

The two men continue to stare at each other. Lavin waiting for Chris to break…

“Steve, you’re right. We are not DePaul.”

“You’re damn right we aren’t. We aren’t mocked like DePaul, we aren’t the joke that is DePaul, we can’t even be DePaul at this point if we wanted to DePaul our way to being DePauling,” Steve says as he stands.

Chris nods his head. Stands up himself and shakes his hand.

“Steve, you go out there and do the best you can.”


Word has traveled on campus that Steve has saved his own job — for now. When news hit the St. John’s Six, they couldn’t have been more elated. So much so in fact that D’Angelo stood up, looked at his friends and stated, “Friends, the season is not yet over and Steve’s family is counting on us. Let’s do this!”

As the group starts to randomly clap as if this were a bad end of a montage segment in an iffy-at-best sports movie made by Disney, Steve walks towards them.

"We Are Not DePaul..." (USA Today Images)

“We Are Not DePaul…” (USA Today Images)

“Coach, how in the heck did you keep this thing together?” says a now seizing for no reason Chris.

Steve smiles at his boys. Boys that he brought to this school to help change the culture. As he walks towards the group knowing that his job is saved, Steve grins from ear to ear and mutters under his breath, “I knew I could always count on your years of incompetence, DePaul.”

Coach-speak follows and the seven men huddle together under the dark skies, knowing that all their legacies, fates, dreams and more are all connected for at least the rest of the season.

“Guys, let’s get it.”

As everything fades to black, a chant can be heard…

“We’re not DePaul. We’re not DePaul. We’re not DePaul…”

To be continued…

Joseph Nardone (22 Posts)

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.

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