Memo to my editors: If I'm ever diagnosed with any form of cancer, even if that cancer is in its earliest stages, I'm probably going to take some time off.
St. John's coach Steve Lavin, on the other hand ... well, not so much. According to a release from St. John's, Lavin was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer last fall, but because the condition didn't require immediate treatment, and because Lavin didn't want to distract his team in his first year on the sideline, he waited until the end of the season to pursue treatment. From the release:
"My family feels fortunate that through annual health exams, we detected my condition at an early stage," said Lavin, 46. "This past fall I didn't want to distract our team, but with the season behind us, we are now working with medical experts and taking the proper steps to tackle this health challenge head on."
Jonathan Schiff, a board-certified urologist in private practice in New York City, provided St. John's with a quote about Lavin's condition, saying that the coach's cancer was detected early enough that it didn't require treatment straightaway. (Those are not the medical terms, but you get the idea.) Which is good, because when you hear that a coach -- part of a very macho-driven, let's-fight-through-this-guys profession by nature -- delayed treatment on a serious-sounding medical condition like prostate cancer, you hope it's not out of the typical masculine stubbornness that characterizes marketing efforts about the disease. Rather, Lavin's case is a banner example of why regular checkups and early detection, the most important deterrents to the most common form of cancer in men, are so very vital.
Lavin also received support from two Big East coaching stalwarts -- Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun -- both of whom have recovered from the disease and gone on to win national titles:
"All of us as men can get it," Calhoun told The Associated Press. "I am happy for him that they caught it early. The cure rate then can be 100 percent. [...] I underwent surgery; he may not. But after the surgery I was back coaching in 12 days."
"He seemed to be on top of it and it was caught early," said Boeheim, who was diagnosed in 2001. "We talked about a number of things. I think he's in real good position to handle this."
Boeheim's right: Lavin's announcement was somewhat startling today, as is the case any time you hear the word "cancer." And, yeah, I would have taken work off if I had a curious-looking mole. But the St. John's coach seems to have things under control, and he should make a full recovery. That is tremendous news.
Oh, and it also explains why Lavin wore those Coaches Vs. Cancer sneakers all season. Maybe the kicks weren't just a good-luck charm after all.