It's not just St. John's 10 seniors who must adjust to new coach Steve Lavin. He has to get used to coaching again after spending the past seven years commentating for ESPN since his firing at UCLA.
In a refreshing burst of candor following his first win at St. John's a 79-66 decision over Columbia, Lavin blamed himself for the Red Storm's poor first half and second-guessed the coaching job he did in the opener two days earlier at St. Mary's, where the Johnnies suffered a 76-71 loss.
The Ivy League Lions hit a hot streak from three-point range and went to the locker room at halftime with a stunning 39-35 lead after trailing by 12 points earlier. "I'll take the first-half responsibility," Lavin said. "We bult a nice lead, and then, I over-substituted and took us out of our rhythm. I wanted to use the bench more because I felt I didn't do an effective job against St. Mary's.
"I tried to keep fresh bodies on the floor, and I went too far. But we found a good balance in the second half."
As well-organized as Lavin has been about every detail of his return to coaching, there's no substitute for experiencing live-action decision-making again. He said he's been straightforward with the players about how they all must adjust throughout the coming season. "I told the team they're going to grow, and so will the staff," Lavin said.
"We're going to keep working at it the same as I expect them to work at it. The most powerful parenting is to lead by example. I felt against St. Mary's I could have done a better job with the substitution pattern. It gets tough when you get to nine or 10 players. It's a challenge."