Lavin angling for ASU job

Arizona State's job opening is coveted by Steve Lavin, who once had UCLA basketball in the Sweet 16 in five of six seasons earlier in his coaching career.

Even before St. John's and its head basketball coach Steve Lavin agreed to a mutual parting of ways Friday the one-time UCLA head coach had his eyes set on the Arizona State job opening.

Earlier this week Lavin had intermediaries working on his behalf -- including a former Division I head coach -- speak with at least several people in and around the ASU athletic department, a source said.

Now that Lavin, 50, is no longer at St. John's, his interest in the position has only increased, the source said.

Lavin went 81-55 in five seasons at St. John's, with two NCAA Tournament appearances. His 2014-15 squad went 21-12 and lost as a No. 9 seed in its opening game to San Diego State.

"I'm proud of our results both on and off the court - in particular our memorable runs to the NCAA tournament in 2011 and 2015," Lavin said in a statement released by the school. "Most importantly, I take pride in our performance in the classroom having graduated our student athletes who will represent the institution in a first class manner."

Whether ASU has any interest in Lavin is uncertain in the immediate aftermath of his parting of ways with St. John's.

Lavin's first head coaching opportunity came at UCLA starting in his early 30s, where he went 145-78 over seven seasons, including four Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite 8 showing in his first season, 1996-97. Lavin earned a reputation as an energetic figure who recruited at a high level, but his final UCLA team went 10-19 and he was heavily criticized by boosters and media for underwhelming as a bench coach and developer of talent.

After he was fired by UCLA Lavin spent seven-plus years as a high profile television analyst before taking the St. John's job.

No in-person contact yet

ASU had yet to interview in person any candidates for its coaching job as of Friday afternoon according to a source familiar with the program's process. Instead, the Sun Devils are patiently allowing representatives of coaches to reach out in order to determine who might be seriously interested.

An executive search firm is not being used in the initial stage of ASU's coaching search, according to a school source.

Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley spoke with ASU officials via conference call Thursday, and the Sun Devils have begun backgrounding Hurley and additional candidates, including Duke assistant Jeff Capel, who is still considered an early front-runner for the position.

Hurley is considered an early candidate for the St. John's job vacated by the firing of Lavin, according to published reports.

Capel is an assistant coach at Duke, which is playing in the Sweet 16 Friday evening against Utah, a fact which is contributing to ASU being diligent with the pace of its search.

ASU plans to interview candidates at the Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend if it has not filled the position beforehand, and is unlikely to make a hire prior to that, the source said.

Candidate pool grows

In addition to Capel and Hurley, according to sources the Sun Devils have spoken either directly or with representatives of at least several other coaches, including Anthony Grant, who was fired by Alabama earlier this month, and Trent Johnson, who is currently the head coach at TCU and previously coached at LSU and Stanford.

MacDougall will wait

Contradicting published reports, ASU forward Connor MacDougall said he will wait until learning who ASU's new coach is before making a decision about transferring.

Earlier in the week a source close to MacDougall told that the 6-foot-8 freshman would not return to the school in the fall.

MacDougall is currently recovering from shoulder surgery after seeing his season end prematurely due to injury.

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