Once rivals in the NCAA Tournament and later the Big East, Rick Pitino and Steve Lavin both returned from self-imposed college basketball exile to take on the challenge of leading mid-major programs. With Lavin set to join San Diego this coming season, Pitino has some thoughts on the hire.
Taking to Twitter this morning, Pitino praised San Diego for hiring Lavin as their new head coach. He called Lavin "a proven winner" and believes his experience in big programs will give him an edge.
"San Diego’s choice to hire Steve Lavin was outstanding. He was already a proven winner, now what he learned by observing the best programs will only enhance his abilities. Won’t be easy but great pick!" Pitino wrote.
Lavin and Pitino didn't cross paths when Lavin was leading UCLA to the Sweet 16 five times. But they became regular rivals while working at St. John's and Louisville respectively.
Steve Lavin led UCLA to a 145-78 record in seven years at the helm. He brought them to the Sweet 16 five times and the Elite Eight in 1997.
In 2010, he was hired as head coach at St. John's but struggled to replicate his success. He led the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament twice but went just 81-53 overall.
Lavin was fired in 2015 and spent the last seven years working as a basketball analyst. Now he's emerging after seven years to return to his native California as the head coach of the Toreros.
Will Steve Lavin and Rick Pitino cross paths in the NCAA again?