A Column of Enchantment: The Final Chapter of the Steve Lavin Story

Posted by Joseph Nardone on April 2nd, 2015

(Ed. Note: The first chapter of the Lavin story can be located here. Also, quotes may or may not be verbatim. Or accurate.)

The dark clouds have parted over the St. John’s campus. Despite much speculation regarding a possible extension, the Red Storm athletic department has parted ways with head coach Steve Lavin. Different reports have stated that Lavin was looking for more money and an extension, but that doesn’t matter now — the Johnnies have gone in another direction. One which they hope will bring much shine back to the program. That direction is going to be led by the greatest player in the history of their program, Chris Mullin. Still, Lavin has one last (short) adventure left in his story.

As he parts, Steve Lavin leaves Chris Mullin with some words of wisdom ... kinda. (ESPN)

As he parts, Steve Lavin leaves Chris Mullin with some words of wisdom … kinda. (ESPN)


Lavin is cleaning out his office. Unlike most other college basketball coaches, though, his office isn’t filled with film, game plans, or any other type of traditional coach’s office fillers. Instead it has a desk filled with restaurant menus, a calendar on the wall with the dates filled in with reservation times, and a coffee cup filled with a weird, green looking juice. This was Lavin’s home. Not anymore, though, as he has to leave it clean for the person who is taking his job. As he is cleaning out his office he makes a decision to be a good man. Lavin, as he often does, decides that he should leave Mullin a note that has some positive reinforcement in it. As with all things Lavin, though, the note becomes less of a good look memo and more of a watch your back warning.

Dear Chris Mullin,

Hey, Chris! I hope all is well. Congrats on the new gig as the head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm! You’re going to love it here. The city is filled with some of the best eateries in all of the country. If you manage to ignore some of them from time to time you might be able to be a good basketball coach too! I know. I know. The task ahead of you seems rather daunting. Trust me, I get it. When I came to the program the cupboard was bare too. I mean, I only had a roster filled with seniors and a pretty deep bench. At least you don’t have to worry about that. You get to start anew. Like, brand anew. You almost don’t even have a roster to speak of! Think of that as a blessing!

Lavin says to Mullin: "Watch Your Back." New York City is a cutthroat town. (Getty)

Lavin says to Mullin: “Watch Your Back.” New York City is a cutthroat town. (Getty)

No need to thank me either. I set the bar rather high for you. The Johnnies’ fan base is now going to expect at least two NCAA Tournament appearances every five years. Think about that for a second, Chris. Your first two years with the program are already going to be a wash because I recruited in such a way that does not leave you with much talent, but those next few years have endless possibilities. You are probably a really busy man now. I don’t want to bother you too much. I just want to leave you with this thought. I know you have no coaching experience at any level, have never recruited, have spent the majority of the last three decades living on the West Coast, and might not have the patience to deal with teenagers, but it is not like you have to actually attend high school games to recruit or anything. I mean, it is not like I did — and i worked out just fine.


Steve Lavin



As Lavin is leaving his office, he sees many of the things that made his stay with the program a happy time. Restaurants, cafes, Gene Keady, more restaurants, guys on the back end of his bench that he recruited to play for the Johnnies but never actually played, and a sneakers-with-suits store. It makes him sad, yet, if only for a minute, it also makes him appreciate all things happy during his time with the program.

“Hey, coach!”, a giddy Chris Obekpa yells towards Lavin. “I was thinking. If you’re gone, then I’m gone! This place can’t survive without you…”

Lavin takes a deep breath, “Chris, you nearly transferred out last year when I was still coming back to the program. What made you change your mind now?”

“You see,” Obekpa says, while wearing shorts so tiny that you can tell which religion he worships. “I want to be a professional basketball player. Sheed and I were talking and…”

“You let Rysheed Jordan speak actual words?” an increasingly upset Lavin says. “I spent the last two years putting a muzzle on that kid.”

Lavin pulls out a notepad from his back pocket. He starts going through each page looking for something. After the first 40 or so, which all just happen to be fine dining spots, he finds what he was looking for.

“You see this, Chris?” as Lavin points to the notepad. “This is all the things Rysheed Jordan has said when he was not in a muzzle situation… and that is why you should not listen to him. Chris, if you want to go pro, go pro. Do not do it because Sheed said so, though. Be free Chris Obekpa. Be free as a bird.”

Obekpa smiles and starts to get overly excited for some reason. He goes to high-five his former coach but then falls down as if a sniper plucked him from a nearby building. He gets up as if he were looking for a foul call from a referee which does not exist in the game called life. Lavin starts to walk away.

“Never change, Chris. Never change.”


St. John's goes from the coach with the coolest hair in college basketball to the coach with ... the coolest hair in college basketball? Whoaaaaa. (NBA.com)

St. John’s goes from the coach with the coolest hair in college basketball to the coach with … the coolest hair in college basketball? Whoaaaaa. (NBA.com)

Some fans who really wanted Lavin to stay see him walking down the road with a box of his belongings in tow. They yell out some random phrases of support. Things like, “We love you, Coach!” to “You can still eat New York City food!” can be heard from differing groups. If nothing else, Lavin feels reassured by the yells. He grins back every time he hears one of the young people’s chants. As he continues to walk away from what may very well be his last coaching job, his cellphone rings.

“Steve, it is John Skipper at ESPN. Would you like to come back to us and talk some college hoops on the picture-box?”

“How often? How much are you willing to pay me? Do I have to live in Bristol?”

“Ummmm. Well, pretty often during the season. I guess we can pay you as much as last time. You don’t have to live in Bristol per se, but you will have to spend time up here.”

“Here are my requirements if you want me to take the job. Whatever number of years you were going to want me on contract, extend that four more years. Also, give me double the pay. I will never go to Bristol either.”

“Jeepers, Steve. You haven’t done anything to deserve any of those things. Even giving you the benefit of the doubt, at least not yet, why should I do such things.”

“If JarKarr and/or Harkless had stayed, Skipper, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I mean, look at all the… Hello? Hello? Skipper?”


Lavin finally gets to his car, puts his belongings in the trunk, and settles in for his drive home. He takes one last look at the university which he has called home for a few years. Thoughts about Mike Dunlap, what could-have-beens and other things scatter through his mind. A tear slowly forms in his right eyeball when he mutters to himself “At least we were never DePaul.” As he drives off into the sunset (which is weird because it is 4:00 PM in March), he starts to think about his future. Then, because Lavin, he decides to stop off at one of NYC’s best diners to eat one last meal before leaving the city.

The end?


Outside Nardone storytime thought. I just wanted to say that I am glad I’m no longer in a situation where I have to criticize a coach who I think is actually a solid guy. The first Lavin story was longer and poked even more fun at him (and included far fewer inside jokes), but that’s because I’m not a huge fan of kicking guys when they are down — even though I just did, I guess. With that said, there are few people who have gone through more things than Lavin did on a personal level during his time with the Johnnies. I do think he got a fair shake, however, and his time with the program ran its course. Regardless, I wish him luck and, yes, at least St. John’s was not DePaul during his time with the school. Now if they rehire him in a decade or so…

Eh, I digress. Basketball — kind of.

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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