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Steve Lavin Continues to Return St. John’s Basketball to Relevancy
February 1, 2011 – 10:30 am by Eric Schmoldt
Is St. John’s basketball back? Not yet, but if Sunday’s victory over Duke at the Garden was any indication, the Red Storm is at  least on its way.
First-year coach Steve Lavin and St. John’s have played one of the top five toughest schedules in the country and are still a respectable 12-8 despite that tough road. The Red Storm is under .500 in Big East play, but according to many prognosticators, they’d still be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today.
Thanks to that schedule and success, the Red Storm is also seemingly on its way to becoming nationally relevant again. A resounding victory over Duke on Sunday won’t hurt things. St. John’s thrashed one of the top 10 teams in the country at the Garden for the first time in nearly a decade, a victory that, by itself, may have put the Johnnies back on the map.

Steve Lavin joined ESPN Radio New York with McDonald and Tierney to discuss what the victory over Duke does for his program, how they beat Duke so badly, why the Johnnies were still confident despite losing to Georgetown a few days earlier and the most important thing his team has to do down the stretch.
What the victory over Duke meant to the program:
“Always helps, like jumper cables, when you get a big win. It’s important for the program, for your kids, for your various constituencies, former players and alumni and of course the St. John’s basketball fans. … This was really a positive step in the right direction and it puts some wind in the sails for our team.”
On picking apart multiple Duke defenses:
“Our kids were sharp. There’s certain games, as a coach, you try to get your team at a perfect pitch, to hit on all cylinders, to hit on the right notes. … But you also realize you’re working with 18-22 year olds. … But that’s the goal and I think [the Duke game] was a byproduct of the seven prior games against top-25 opponents.”
Why the team was so confident despite losing the last game to Georgetown:
“For starters, it was an electric environment, so I think we did feed off the Garden and our fans really brought their A game. … I also think just context. What we try to do as a staff is just not operate in a vacuum. It’s natural to be so focused just on your team and you can get carried away with amplifying the flaws or deficiencies or chinks in the armor. You need to address those … but also build on your strengths. We reminded the team a couple times through the week that Syracuse had lost four straight games and that’s just life in the Big East.”
What is the most important thing his team has to do down the stretch?:
“Having done this for parts of 24 years now … I think that the most important thing is that your team continues to make progress. It sounds like coach-speak, but it’s really true. Refining and polishing are very important at this stage of the season. … If you do that, the wins will take care of themselves.”
What the Duke win does to the profile of the future at St. John’s:
“It energizes the base and the base includes alumni and donors and former players and the St. John’s fan in the street. … Also, our recruits and future prospects, our staff. On a number of fronts, when you win a game [like the Duke game] it just energizes the base, it engages them and people are more likely to come back to the Garden. … It helps our profile coast-to-coast because we want to recruit to the St. John’s brand and having the Garden as our home court and the tradition and being in the Big East.”
Listen to Steve Lavin on ESPN Radio New York here (Interview begins at 37:30)
Tags: College Basketball, Duke Blue Devils, Madison Square Garden, St. John’s Red Storm, Steve Lavin

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