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Original Issue

Lavin's Debut

New ESPN college basketball analyst and former UCLA hoops coach
Steve Lavin is so easygoing that last year when it became obvious
that he would be fired, he gave the school recommendations for a
replacement. Then, when he got the ax, and former Pitt coach Ben
Howland took over, Lavin went to dinner with him. Is Lavin too
nice to be effective as an analyst? "I won't be afraid to say
some coach is on the hot seat," says Lavin, 39, who has spent
three weeks visiting schools in the Midwest, where he'll cover
games as a commentator in addition to working three days a week
in the studio. "There's a way to criticize that's not malicious
or unfair."

Lavin, who majored in journalism and communications at Chapman
University (Calif.), is a master networker, and his friendships
with coaches should help bring viewers inside the game. Last
weekend, in his debut as studio host, Lavin was smooth and
polished, dropping details about the Indiana and Purdue practices
he had visited and petitioning for the NCAA to grant coaches
access to their players in the summers. --John O'Keefe