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Criticism of Steve Lavin unfair?

Head coach Steve Lavin of the St. John's

Head coach Steve Lavin of the St. John's Red Storm gestures during a game against the Arizona at Wildcats at the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 17, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Before anyone takes Steve Lavin and the St. John’s program to task for a series of negative events surrounding the program –The transfer of yet another player in Nurdieen Lindsey and three recruits being ruled academically ineligible– let’s look at the facts.

When Lavin took over the program, there were nine scholarship seniors, two junior and a couple of walk-ons on the roster. Lavin parlayed that experienced roster in a great season that concluded with an NCAA Tournament appearance. While everyone went crazy after banner season, believing St. John’s was back, an interesting side note to things was that Lavin would have to replace almost everyone on that team.

And that’s exactly what Lavin did. He bought in a highly touted freshmen group along with a few JUCO transfers. To overhaul nearly an entire squad in one offseason is difficult in college basketball. Lavin did that. Hempstead’s Malik Sith was the only returning player with any real experience.

Dwayne Polee, Lavin’s first recruit from last season, decided to transfer. But much of that had to do with Polee being 3,000 miles from home.

Three of Lavin’s recruits, JaKarr Sampson, Norvel Pelle, and Amir Garrett didn’t make the grade academically. Sampson and Pelle have since decided to de-commit.

Lavin caught some heat for that. While it’s fair to be critical of a coach when three key recruits don’t have the grades and a couple of important players transfer, saying something is wrong with the program is a bit much.

A: Players transfer all the time.
B: A recruit having academic issues is not uncommon.
C: And this may actually be the most important aspect of this. Lavin took over a program that needed a complete overhaul. So he may have had to reach a bit to fill out the roster in order to avoid the team go completely into the tank.

New York Sports