Pete Thamel of the New York Times is reporting tonight that Steve Lavin is set to be hired at St. John’s soon, as an unnamed source familiar with the proceedings labeled today as a “productive and positive dialogue” between the two parties. Lavin has spent the last seven seasons as a commentator for ESPN after being fired from UCLA after a disastrous 10-19 season in 2002-03. He was reportedly close to accepting the NC State position in 2006, but ultimately decided against it to remain in television. This is a solid hire in our view. Lavin has name-brand recognition with high school kids who have grown up watching him on ESPN, and he’s always been a strong recruiter anyway. So long as he can connect with NYC-area kids, he should be successful there. St. John’s has been down for so long that merely getting to a Sweet Sixteen level of success with regularity would probably give Lavin lifelong job security in Jamaica, NY. And we’ve always had a bit of feeling that Lavin feels he got a raw deal in Westwood, so he should be all the more motivated to prove his doubters wrong there.
The other big news today was a report out of Eugene that Oregon was prepared to offer Michigan State’s Tom Izzo the richest head coaching contract in college basketball history — greater than Kentucky coach John Calipari’s $32M/8-year deal he received last spring. Phil Knight is backing the search financially and this squares with the rumors that UO was going to attempt to hire a big name this year. Izzo said today that he was happy where he’s at, which is currently coaching yet another Spartan team into the Final Four. It probably won’t be Izzo, but someone will bite on this. The numbers are simply too large to pass up.
In other coaching carousel news, Marshall’s Donnie Jones has taken the head coaching position at Central Florida. He replaces Kirk Speraw, who was fired two weeks ago after compiling the all-time wins record in eleven seasons at UCF. So… does this mean that CUSA FrOY and DPOY Hassan Whiteside is going pro? His mother says that early reports of his going pro are premature and that no decision has yet been made.
We’ve already discussed Kansas center Cole Aldrich and Michigan guard Manny Harris’ decisions to go pro in other spaces, but two other prominent players announced their intentions to go pro today. Seton Hall sophomore center Herb Pope will test the waters, but is likely to stay in the draft, and UTEP junior center Derrick Caracter will also leave school for professional opportunities. Pope is projected as a late first rounder, but Caracter at this point is not seen as a legitimate prospect given some of his previous offcourt troubles.