St. John's coach Steve Lavin did not accompany his team to Thursday night's game at No. 1 Kentucky, and he won't return to the bench until he feels strong enough while recovering from prostate cancer surgery.
Lavin, who had surgery Oct. 6, said his stamina has not improved enough for him to coach in games. He said there is no date for him to return to the bench with the Red Storm (4-3).
"I'm cancer free, but now recognize I set myself back with a premature return to the sidelines," Lavin said. "I was hoping with each subsequent game that my stamina would improve but instead it regressed. It became clear that presently I have not recovered enough from surgery to lead the team through the toil of a game. After consulting with Dr. (Peter T.) Scardino we decided to modify my coaching duties."
The 47-year-old Lavin missed the season opener, but was on the bench for four games — including two in as many days at Madison Square Garden — before missing last week's win over St. Francis, N.Y., and loss to Northeastern, both at home.
The second-year coach says he will keep working with his doctors as he follows a modified schedule.
"Attending practice to take notes and share thoughts with the team isn't taxing, sitting in the stands at a high school game or practice to evaluate a prospect isn't taxing. Going to dinner with a donor isn't taxing," Lavin said. "At this stage of my recuperation it's the game coaching that presents the biggest challenge."
He won't give a timetable for returning to the sideline.
"The good news is being cancer free. That was the objective of the surgery," he said. "But it would not be prudent at this juncture to return to the sidelines and jeopardize my long-term health. It's not fair to the team if I coach in games when not yet having the necessary strength for competing at the highest level of college basketball."
Assistant coach Mike Dunlap -- who was head coach at Arizona and Oregon before coming to Queens -- will serve as head coach of the Red Storm in Lavin's absence.
"Every day has been the same as far as keeping the team informed on how coach Steve Lavin is doing," Dunlap said. "We just go about our business each day. We're good about building a line of communication between our players and the staff. We want Coach Lavin to feel like he can take as much time as he needs based off our behavior — that's the most important thing for us. I don't want to paint our players as being machinelike, because they're not. But, they feed off of the rest of the coaching staff's energy levels. We have a tendency as a staff to have a lot of energy."
Dunlap backed up Lavin that the issue is stamina.
"He's got an A-plus on all of his blood work and when they did the surgery, obviously all of the biopsy work they did was good," Dunlap said. "It's a matter of recuperation. None of that has changed, but what I told Coach Lavin was: 'based off of all the reading I've done and the people that I've talked to, you're looking at a two to four month recovery period.' The day he had his surgery, I talked to him about that. I actually talked to him about that beforehand, too. I did some homework for him because we have that kind of relationship."