From his 21 seasons at the helm of Fort Walton Beach boys basketball, John Lavin developed one golden rule.
“Be on time.”
Sure, so much more went into compiling a 346-222 record, five district titles and a Final Four appearance from 1998-2018.
Yet amid the play calling, long practices and year-round conditioning, he found that the foundation for discipline started with simply showing up.
“I was 29 when I took over and I built a book of rules. As I got older I cut all the junk and boiled it down to ‘Be on time.’ That seems to cover everything,” Lavin said. “I told them to give us everything you have and repeat that the next day. Coaches sometimes have too many restrictions and requirements.”
Lavin’s golden rule will likely stay with the Vikings program. He will not.
The 50-year-old is stepping down from the helm of both boys basketball and boys golf.
“I’ve worked with so many great coaches and players and I’ve built great relationships in my 21 years,” Lavin said. “I’m really proud of what these programs have stood for. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. Hopefully I’ve made a positive impact.
“I know I’ve learned a lot about myself and become a better person during my time here.”
On the hardwood, Lavin’s most successful season came in 2011 when the Vikings went 29-2 and lost in the Final Four to state champion William T. Dwyer.
On the links, Lavin took over the program in 2009 and — with a senior-laden group that feature his son Jack this past season — helped lead the Vikings to a regional title and a fourth-place finish at state in his swan song.
Lavin also enjoyed stints with the girls golf team as the head coach from 2005-2008 and the girls basketball team as an assistant before he took over the boys program in 1998. All in all he’s coached 24 years on the hardwood.
“It wasn’t easy to play for me because we were demanding,” Lavin said. “I always held kids accountable. But at the same time we had a lot of fun and created a lot of great memories.”
Of those memories, coaching his son for four years was near the top.
“When Jack was Athlete of the Week he talked about playing for me, and I feel the same way,” Lavin said. “That’s a father’s dream.”
Also near the top was how, regardless of talent, his teams always showed growth.
“Regardless of our record, the guys always accepted their roles and played for each other,” Lavin said.
Lavin will stay with Fort Walton Beach High School for now as he explores “some opportunities in the private sector.”
“I’ll talk it over with the administration and figure out the next step. But I’m excited for the future,” Lavin said. “I just want to thank all the coaches, players and people who have been a part of my time here.
“It’s been amazing.”