St. John’s is painting New York City red again

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Hall of Fame coaches Joe Lapchick and Lou Carnesecca were most responsible for the school’s 1,720 victories, seventh most in Division I.

“They pulled a Lazarus,” said Carnesecca, turning theological and referencing those who rise from the dead. “These kids have been through the wars. There’s a buzz. These kids are the toast of the town and New York was begging for this. It wakes up the whole neighborhood.”

The most wins this senior class has had is the 17 last season, a figure already matched with four regular-season games and the Big East and NCAA tournaments still to play.

An NCAA berth _ it would the school’s first since 2002 _ is pretty much a certainty given the Red Storm’s list of wins, strength of schedule (No. 1 in the nation) and RPI ranking (12). St. John’s is also tied for fourth in a conference projected to get eight to 11 NCAA tournament bids.

“Last year I felt we were on the verge,” senior Paris Horn said. “We were right there, but things didn’t click.”

They are clicking now and Burrell doesn’t want that to change.

“When you’re losing everything is dark,” he said. “It’s terrible to lose. I didn’t want to speak to my mother, everything she said sounded bad. Classwork is so much harder, all that stuff. Now, my mom’s nice, puts a couple of extra dollars in my account. Teachers are being extra nice. Everyone is smiling a little harder. The campus life is a little bit more fun. Everything is great.”

And Lavin and his inherited rotation of 10 seniors, one sophomore and one freshman are giving St. John’s fans a ride they haven’t had in a while.

“Being seniors and going through the tough times we had we want to maintain what we have now so there’s no letdown,” forward Sean Evans said.

And to keep the team’s mind on the task at hand, Lavin placed a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” in every player’s locker.

“This is different for me,” said Lavin, who had a 145-78 record in seven seasons at UCLA and took the Bruins to six NCAA tournaments, reaching the round of 16 four times.

“At 46 everything is different,” he said. “I was 32 when I got the job at UCLA. At 46, you’re more deliberate. Maybe you appreciate things more because you slow down and have more life experience to look back on.”

“This is really a special team,” he added. “And they’re in the middle of an impressive run, yet we have so much work ahead of us and there’s only a month or so to go. It’s been a very rewarding group to work with, gratifying to see the breakthroughs.”

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