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Lavin fell into the job when Jim Harrick was fired a week before the season began in November 1996. With assistants Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Romar having already taken head coaching jobs, the unproven Lavin was promoted.
His teams at UCLA beat four No. 1-ranked opponents, but in his final season, the Bruins had a then-record 10 losses at Pauley Pavilion and the average attendance of 8,348 in the 12,819-seat arena was the lowest since 1993.
St. John's fired Norm Roberts after six seasons in which he went 81-101. Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt rejected an offer from the school last week. Al Skinner, who was fired by Boston College on Tuesday, also was interviewed.
Lavin recalled that whenever fans would ask if he would return to coaching, one of the jobs he'd always mention as among the few that would lure him away from his TV gig was St. John's. But he'd also add that he probably would never be considered for the position because he's not a New York guy.
Lavin drew plenty of laughs at the Catholic school when he joked of his seemingly unlikely hire, "Maybe I'm the Polish pope."
Lavin, who plans to hire assistants with East Coast ties, noted that he recruited nationally at UCLA.
"It's not as though I'm going to be Mr. Magoo wandering around gyms in New York not knowing anybody," he said.
As he'd told all those fans, an offer from St. John's was what it took to get him back into coaching after he turned down N.C. State in 2006.
"I was well aware when I made that decision that it might be the last opportunity to coach at this level," he said. "That's how much I was enjoying broadcasting."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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