Playing home games at venerable Madison Square Garden has always been one of the strongest selling points for St. John's basketball, but new coach Steve Lavin wants the school to do more to maximize that advantage.
Lavin told the New York Post on Sunday that he would like to use the New York Knicks' luxurious locker room in the future instead of the smaller auxiliary one that St. John's has been relegated to in the past.
"I want the players to know that this is a special building in college basketball history," said Lavin. "We want to take playing here to the next level."
Lavin said he would like to put down a red St. John's carpet, install players nameplates above the lockers and use lush chairs. (Joel Fisher, the Garden's executive VP for Sports Properties) was excited about the idea and doesn't see a scheduling conflict with the Knicks.
Even the slightest recruiting advantage is important right now for a St. John's program that will need to replace nine seniors and build a foundation for the future with its 2011 class. Lavin has spent the past couple months in catch-up mode on the recruiting trail, working his staff's connections on both coasts and in the Midwest to try to sell top prospects on the idea of revitalizing a storied but struggling program.
Sharing a locker room with an NBA team might seem like a trivial detail, but small perks like that sometimes matter to prospects with dreams of playing alongside the pros. When Washington played at Staples Center during the Pac-10 tournament last March, starting point guard Isaiah Thomas admitted he was sincerely disappointed that the Huskies didn't get to use the Lakers locker room.
Said Thomas, "I wanted the Lakers' locker room so I could sit where Kobe sits."