Is Steve Lavin The Answer?

Steve Lavin's coaching perspective was forged over 15 years as a Division I college basketball coach at both UCLA and Purdue University.

During his time working the sidelines at both Purdue and UCLA, Lavin's teams qualified for 13 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (1989-2002). Lavin was an assistant coach on the Bruins 1995 National Championship team that finished with a 32-1 record.

But in 1996, it all changed for Lavin and UCLA. Just a year removed from a national title, head coach Jim Harrick was fired for a recruiting scandal, and Lavin, just 32 at the time and cleared of any wrongdoing in the Harrick fiasco, was tabbed the interim head coach. One of the youngest head coaches in NCAA Division I history, the interim label would be removed and the San Francisco native was the leader of college basketball's most successful program.

Lavin is the only head coach in NCAA Men's Basketball history to lead his team to victory over the No. 1 team in the country in four consecutive collegiate seasons (Arizona '03, Kansas '02, Stanford '01, Stanford '00).
As UCLA's head basketball coach, Lavin had his share of ups and downs. From 1996-2003, Lavin compiled a record of 145-78 (65%) in Westwood, and accomplished much during his tenure. In his inaugural season as head coach, Lavin directed the Bruins to the 1997 Pac-10 Championship and the NCAA Elite Eight.

At UCLA, Lavin was one of only two coaches in the country, along with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, to lead his team to five NCAA "Sweet 16s" in six years (‘02, '01, '00, '98, '97). He guided UCLA to six consecutive 20+ game winning seasons and to six consecutive NCAA tournaments. As head coach, his career record in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament was 10-1. However, at UCLA, reaching the Sweet 16 wasn't good enough, and Lavin learned that later during his stay.

In 2001, after the Bruins finished 23-9, Lavin was honored with the Pacific-10 Coach of the Year award.

He is the only head coach in NCAA Men's Basketball history to lead his team to victory over the No. 1 team in the country in four consecutive collegiate seasons (Arizona '03, Kansas '02, Stanford '01, Stanford '00).

Lavin had a 12-4 record in games involving overtime periods, and in his first six years, UCLA was 115-5 when leading at the five-minute mark and 8-2 when the score is tied with five minutes left to play.

He also did well against UCLA's rivals, USC. Lavin's Bruins had a 10-4 record against the Trojans.

He is regarded as a terrific recruiter, and Lavin recruited and signed the No. 1 rated recruiting class in the country in both 1998 and 2001. He signed seven McDonald's High School All-Americans, and one or more of his former UCLA players or recruits has been chosen in the NBA draft over the past nine consecutive years (1997-2005). Six of Lavin's former Bruin recruits or players are currently members of NBA teams.

However, it all fell apart for Lavin during the 2002-2003 season. With a preseason top 20 team, the Bruins finished 10-19 and Lavin was fired in March of 2003.

Shortly thereafter, Lavin was signed to a multi-year contract with ESPN and ABC where he provides color commentary as both game and studio analyst.

Lavin has been out of coaching for three seasons, but he is a coach. Could this be the right time for him to return to the bench?

What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: Lavin has several qualities that should appeal to NC State AD Lee Fowler. Still relatively young at 41, Lavin had a lot of postseason success at UCLA. In Lavin's seven seasons as the UCLA head coach, he was 10-1 during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including an unbeaten 5-0 record in second round games. Postseason success is a trait Fowler openly admitted that he is looking for in a coach, and Lavin has proven he can have success well past the regular season.

Steve Lavin is likely the best recruiter out of the potential candidates, and he would be able to land the players needed to battle the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.
Lavin is also a terrific recruiter. As an assistant and head coach, he recruited some of the nation's top talent to UCLA, and did so by squaring off against the country's premier programs. He has proven he can recruit and battle against the big boys for elite talent. Lee Fowler has stressed that he wants a coach who can compete with Duke and North Carolina on a consistent basis, and to accomplish this NC State must have quality talent. Steve Lavin is likely the best recruiter out of the potential candidates, and he would be able to land the players needed to battle the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.

Now a college analyst, Lavin has a great personality and would fit in well with NC State's fanbase. He has a passion for the game and is considered one of the most likeable guys in the profession. Lavin would bring an exciting brand of basketball to Raleigh, and that is something NC State fans seem to be yearning for.

Finally, Steve Lavin has seen it all. He was UCLA's head coach at 32. Think about that. He has faced the scrutiny that you can expect as a head coach, and he would be ready for whatever pressure there would be in Raleigh. Don't expect Lavin to be rattled should he take over at NC State.

What Makes Him a Longshot: Lavin struggled late in his tenure at UCLA with winning and particularly in his final season. After having his contract bought out, Lavin has spent the past three years out of the profession, serving as an analyst for ESPN. Would he need a couple of seasons to get back familiar with coaching and can NC State afford that?

A true "West Coast" guy, there are concerns that he may not want to leave that part of the country. A native Californian, Lavin has spent his entire life in the state, except for a brief stint as an assistant coach at Purdue. His fiance is an actress who works out of Hollywood. Coaching basketball at NC State is a full-time job and would require a permanent relocation to Raleigh. It would be much different than spending half of the year traveling as an ESPN analyst while returning to sunny California in the offseason. Would Lavin make the move, and would he be happy in North Carolina?

He developed a reputation for being a dynamic recruiter, but that was earned at one of the top jobs in the country. Some question if he would have the same recruiting success away from UCLA, and it is a legitimate concern.

Pack Pride's Take: Lavin would be an interesting choice. He seems to have all of the qualities that Fowler is looking for with minimal flaws.

At 41, he has a lot of upside left as a coach, and he just might have learned what it takes to succeed after coaching at arguably the toughest job in the nation.


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