Securing commitments from top 50 prospects Maurice Harkless and Jakarr Sampson will certainly accelerate Steve Lavin's rebuilding efforts, but the St. John's coach's most important recruit may be a 74-year-old retiree.
Lavin told me last month that he was still working on cajoling legendary former Purdue coach Gene Keady into accepting a consulting role on his St. John's staff. Now ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil is reporting that a formal announcement could come as soon as next week that Lavin has hired his longtime mentor as an "executive assistant."
"Well that's news to me," Keady laughed. "I haven't seen any papers or gotten a contract yet."
The fact is, Keady is coming. He's just going to make Lavin suffer a little bit first.
Keady has a list of critical demands for Lavin, his one-time assistant: a driver, a free room at a posh hotel somewhere in New York, a "certain amount of money," and most importantly, someone who will take care of his beloved toy poodle, Queenie.
He's not joking. Queenie is Keady's last link to his late wife, Pat, so the dog's care is of real importance.
Keady won't be allowed to hit the recruiting trail or coach on the floor, but his decades of experience could make him valuable to Lavin as a sounding board. And Lavin probably needs that more than any help recruiting considering the big splash he's made so far in his quest to replace the nine seniors on next season's roster.
Harkless, Rivals.com's 45th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2011, is a 6-foot-6 Queens native who originally committed to UConn before changing his mind. And Sampson, ranked 44th in the Rivals rankings, is a 6-foot-7 wing who plays for St. Vincent-St. Mary, LeBron James' alma mater.