Red Storm Rising: Why the Return of St. John's Is Good for NYC and the Big East

No NameContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2011

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 19:  Steve Lavin the Head Coach of the St. John's Red Storm gives instructions to his team during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals  at the KFC Yum! Center on January 19, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When Steve Lavin took the head coaching job at St. John's in March of last year, that alone should have have been a red flag. Throughout the years, the Red Storm have been a fixture in March, competing in 27 NCAA Tournaments (seventh all-time) and appearing twice in the Final Four.

An extensive list of notable former players have suited up for the Johnnies, including the likes of Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin and Ron Artest.

The last time the Red Storm made the NCAA Tournament you ask? 2002.

So on March 30 of 2010 when Steve Lavin was officially hired to coach St. John's, his job description was clear: Make this program respectable once again.

While his first season at the helm hasn't been perfect by any standard (excuse me, Fordham?), it's been exciting to watch. After knocking off Big East rival and No. 4 Pittsburgh (24-3), the Red Storm (17-9) have now successfully beat six Top 25 teams this season, three of which were in the Top 10 at the time (No. 3 Duke, No. 9 Connecticut, No. 4 Pittsburgh).

Lavin has his Johnnies believing in themselves and in what they're capable of doing. While their tournament resume isn't immaculate, St. John's seems poised to receive an at-large NCAA-bid barring any type of serious meltdown and/or committee error.

Lavin inherited a group which includes nine seniors and somehow has them operating on his terms, as a team. In college basketball, hot streaks cannot be underrated and right now St. John's is looking like the team that nobody wants to play come March.

Regardless of where Lavin's group finishes this year, the Red Storm's success means the world to both the Big East Conference and to basketball in New York City on the whole.

When the Big East's best get together for what has become the best conference tournament in college basketball, there's always an electric atmosphere when the hometown Johnnies take the floor at MSG.

While their performances in the past decade have been lackluster, this missing energy is sure to return when the Big East Tournament kicks off on March 8 from the World's Most Famous Arena.

Lavin is also trying to reverse the trend of homegrown New York City talent going elsewhere to play college ball. Long considered the mecca of the game, the New York Metro Area produces some of the best high school players in the country, only to find that most of them leave to join the annual NCAA participants (North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, etc).

If Lavin can develop a quality program under a strong foundation in Queens, there's no reason why St. John's cannot return to its days of glory. What would be a bigger draw for the superstar guard from St. Raymond's or Christ the King to be able to play nationally-televised games under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden?

New York will be on its way to reclaiming the basketball throne if Lavin and his Johnnies can turn some heads in March.