By Paul M. Banks
DePaul needs a splash hire to revive their dormant program; and ESPN’s Steve Lavin could be it. The Blue Demons need someone to come in and convince local talent to stay home and start something, and I’m not convinced SIU’s Chris Lowery or Jazz Assistant (and former Blue Demon) Tyrone Corbin is that someone.
Lavin declined to comment on this situation.
Thus far, Lavin’s “World Wide Leader” star power makes him the most interesting name in the job mix. Here are the pros and cons:
Why this would be a good fit
-Chicago is a very attractive location for any prospective coach, but especially so for an individual so familiar with the area. Most of the games that Lavin calls on ESPN are Big Ten games, and Chicago is unquestionably the capital of “Big Ten Country.”
-He already has Midwest ties (serving as an assistant on Gene Keady’s Purdue staff from 1988-1991) which would help in recruiting an area that’s a hotbed of prep talent.
-Going from UCLA to DePaul is somewhat akin to Ron Zook going from Florida to Illinois (where Zook goes from here is obviously anywhere but up, but that’s another story). The expectations are much lower, the pressure is off, and victory is defined by much smaller goals.
-During Lavin’s tenure as head coach, the Bruins qualified for six consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Making Lav one of two coaches (also Mike Krzyzewski) to have led his team to five Sweet 16s in six seasons. Lavin’s record in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament is 10-1. His first weekend of the tourney winning percentage (90.9%) is second only to Dean Smith.
-Lavin lead his team to victory over the No. 1 team in the country in four consecutive collegiate seasons (Arizona ’03, Kansas ’02, Stanford ’01, and Stanford ’00.
-Lavin has a chance to rebuild a program that was once proud in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And with the exception of Ray Meyer, he could easily surpass the accomplishments of any DePal coach in recent memory without doing a whole lot.
Why this wouldn’t work
-Lavin has a sweet gig right now that thousands of broadcasting professionals would KILL for. He even gets to spend a ton of time traveling around the nation with super-babe Erin Andrews. Would you want to give that up?
-Coach Lav’s coaching style certainly has its share of critics. Baron Davis called him out recently. And there is a wide perception (justly or unjustly) that his practices at UCLA were glorified shootarounds.
-One of the most popular UCLA blogs, Bruins Nation, referred to him as “the Blagojevich of College Hoops,” and their opinions reflect negative memories that many UCLA fans have of his tenure in Westwood.
-While DePaul resides in the prestigious Big East conference, and their campus is located in the upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Blue Demons also play their home games at Allstate Arena which is located adjacent to O’Hare international airport; WAY out there for any college student living on campus. And, let’s be honest here, many college students require getting extremely drunk before attending home games (DePaul’s less than .100 winning percentage in conference recently doesn’t help) and that’s very difficult to do when your home gym isn’t easily accessible by walking and public transportation. And that arena is far from state-of-the-art to begin with.
So how much of an attraction would this program truly be to Lav? Especially after the bright lights of Bristol and college basketball’s most storied program; located in Hollywood nonetheless.