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Rothstein Files: Steve Lavin Ready To Begin Next Chapter At St. John's

By Jon Rothstein
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The most highly sought after assistant coaching position in recent memory is close to being filled.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, St. John's is expected to hire De La Salle head coach Frank Allocco to replace former assistant Mike Dunlap, who was recently was named head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. There is no timetable on an official announcement.

Allocco has ties with Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin dating back to Lavin's roots in Northern California, and while Allocco has been very successful at the high school level for the past 20 seasons, he's never coached in college or the NBA.

The hire comes as an "outside the box" move by Lavin, especially considering the amount of quality coaches at the high school level in the New York metropolitan area. While several local coaches inquired about the vacancy, Lavin opted to take a different route to replace Dunlap, a brilliant tactician who coached the majority of last season while Lavin was recovering from cancer surgery.

There's no questioning that Lavin has stockpiled the St. John's with the highest talent level the program has seen since Ron Artest and Erick Barkley were the core pieces of Fran Fraschilla's team in the late 1990s. The Red Storm are now positioned to land any prospect in the country and what Lavin has accomplished in two years is nothing short of a minor miracle when it comes to recruiting.

However, next season will be where things get interesting.

St. John's finally has the necessary depth it needs to compete in the Big East. Without Dunlap, the attention will be solely on Lavin to guide his team through the trenches of what is arguably the toughest conference in all of college basketball. While Dunlap was an integral part of the last two years with the Red Storm, Lavin didn't have a so called "strategist" on the bench with him during his seven years at UCLA and he managed to advance to five Sweet 16's and compile a 10-1 record throughout the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

With the second summer session set to begin for student athletes this week, Lavin is expected to begin working with his new team in hopes of molding a unit that becomes a legitimate contender to finish in the middle of the pack of the conference standings.

Gone is versatile forward Moe Harkless, who was drafted 15th overall by Philadelphia in last month's NBA Draft but the Red Storm bring in a plethora of talented players that should blend nicely with last year's returnees.

Incoming forwards Jakarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez are skilled contributors that should produce immediately and 6-foot-9 shot blocker Chris Obekpa figures to be a menace in the Red Storm's match up zone.

Lavin is also very high on Texas A & M transfer Jamal Branch, who should split time with Phil Greene at point guard. Sharpshooter D'Angelo Harrison should also be one of the better players in the conference as a sophomore.

From his opening press conference, Lavin has brought a red carpet and big time feel to St. John's basketball. He's assembled a talented group of players and generated the necessary buzz needed to make the Red Storm a national presence. Now comes the hard part --- winning games.

Is Allocco the right assistant for St. John's? Be heard in the comments below!

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