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Lavin returns to old stomping grounds

St. John's University's Paris Horne gets underneath during

St. John's University's Paris Horne gets underneath during the Rutgers vs. St. John's men's basketball game. (Feb. 2, 2011) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

So it's a return to the scene of the crime.

Well, not exactly. St. John's coach Steve Lavin will make his return to UCLA for the first time as a coach when the Red Storm face the Bruins on Saturday in Southern California.

Strange coincidence, right? He leaves the ESPN analyst desk to take over a job he always admired only to find out he will be facing his former team in his very first season. Yes, it was a coincidence, Lavin said.

Lavin said the UCLA game came up when he first met with St. John's about the job.

"It came up in the interview when I first met Athletic Director Chris Monasch. [UCLA Director of Athletics] Dan Guerrero and Chris Monasch had known each other for years because they served on the NCAA Committee, and were contemporaries for their age and field," Lavin said. 

Returning to Los Angeles is a trip the must be made, according to Lavin. It'll be St. John's third trip to the west coast this season. 

"I knew of the positive of returning to Southern California because naturally it’s going to be an area that we recruit from after the 20 years I’ve spent here," he said. "As you guys know, I have such an affinity for the school here in Westwood. To me, it was a real plus."

As for what the game means, St. John's (13-8, 5-5 Big East) has several quality wins -at West Virginia, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke- on its slate. Under normal circumstances, a team would have no problems convincing the NCAA Tournament selection committee they belong with wins against three ranked team and a fourth team that could end up in the polls. 

But consecutive losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham could make things difficult for the Red Storm. So a win at UCLA could be considered a must for Lavin's crew.

UCLA isn't ranked, but the Bruins (15-7, 7-3 PAC-10) have won six of seven and have victories over BYU, Cal and Washington State.  A win in La La land would go a long way in impressing the committee.

Things won't get any easier for the Red Storm. Connecticut, Cincinnati and Marquette are the next three games on the schedule, followed by a home games against Pittsburgh and DePaul. Needless to say St. John's needs to come out on the winning of that stretch. 


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