Elite Eight championship marks end of Lavin’s career

Elite Eight championship marks end of Lavin's career
It's been a 26-year voyage for Chad Lavin, but last week in Kearney, NE, he could finally see the elusive prize he's been chasing his entire collegiate coaching career.

The University of South Dakota women's basketball head coach has guided the Coyotes (33-1) to their best season in school history. While Lavin's had many successful Coyote teams in his 14 years, including the last nine seasons, at the helm of the program, none have made it to the Elite Eight.

Nor have they been asked what it's like to be on the eve of the schools first-ever national championship game and women's basketball title in program history.

"I think it's every coach's and every player's dream," Lavin said of facing Northern Kentucky March 29 at 5 p.m. in the final game of his coaching career before he steps into retirement.

While Norse head coach Nancy Wingate has lived that dream, Lavin hasn't experienced the thrill.

"Our whole season has been a dream," Lavin said. "We thought we'd be competitive. I don't think anyone would think that we'd have a run like this."

But when the bright lights shone on the hardwood floor in the Health and Science Sports Center March 29, and with ESPN2 showing the action on national television to fans who can't witness the contest live, it's still just another game.

"Tomorrow's going to be another tough game," Lavin said at the national championship game press conference Friday, March 28. "It's not that we're playing in the final championship game. We're just playing a regular game. This game is going to come down to whose going to make some plays."

While senior forward Ashley Robinette will play her final game as a Coyote, she jokingly said she's seen Lavin change from the previous three seasons they've been together.

"I don't know if it's because it's his last year or us winning. But he's been a little bit more calm," she said with a smile.

Robinette dropped the humor and got back to business. The four-year starter from South Sioux City, NE, said Lavin's a unique coach.

"I feel like I'm the most fortunate kid on earth that I got to play for Coach Lavin for four years," Robinette said. "He's an amazing guy and someone that I think we'll be very, very close to forever."

Regardless of what happens Saturday evening, Lavin will leave USD with a school record 273 wins.

But his last squad has been his best one.

"I understand them and they understand me better than any team I've ever coached," Lavin said. "They understand where I'm coming from. It's not always chit-chat."

Lavin admits he's sometimes ornery. And he said there are moments when things get intense between he and his players.

But Lavin said his players aren't afraid to let him know how they feel.

"I don't even have a problem with them coming back at me because I know where they're coming from," Lavin said. "That's the way it is with our team."

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