By Joseph Staszewski
Chris Mullin is here to coach St. John’s back to its past glory days.
“I really want to get this program back to those days and have it consistent” he said.
That was the former St. John’s University great’s mindset as he was introduced as the 20th men’s basketball coach in school history during a news conference at Carnesecca Arena Wednesday where many former players returned to welcome him. He hit all the right notes for a fan base, alumni group and university hungry for the next level of success.
Mullin said his team will be the fittest in the country, play their butts off and be something everyone can be proud of. He stressed the important of player and skill development and returning St. John’s to its former place as the top destination for New York City recruits. You will see him in gyms throughout the city because he played in all of them.
“It’s really important that we dominate New York,” Mullin said. “If there is a very good player in New York City, he needs to come to St. John’s.”
Mullin has no previous coaching experience, but takes the job having spent the majority of his life around basketball. Mullin has nearly a decade of NBA front office experience. He served five years as the Golden State Warriors’ executive vice president of Basketball Operations and spent the last two seasons as a senior adviser for the Sacramento Kings organization. Mullin played under Lou Carnesecca, Bobby Knight, Chuck Daly, Don Nelson and Larry Bird.
“I always thought Chris would make a great coach,” former St. John’s teammates Walter Berry said. “He’s been a gym rat for so long. He’s put all his tools together as a player, as a general manager.”
The Flatbush, Brooklyn native is the most decorated player in program history and its leading scorer with 2,440 career points. Mullin was named Big East Player of the Year a record three times. In 1985 he was the national player of the year, led the Johnnies to a No. 1 ranking national and the NCAA Final Four in 1985. He played 16-years in the NBA and was a five-time All-Star. Mullin won two Olympic gold medals, including with the 1992 Dream Team. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He said this is the right time to try this hand at coaching and had the desire to help his former home.
“I looked at it as a obligation first and foremost,” Mullin said.
“My desire to do it was there. My resume as a player is separate from my resume coaching. That is starting now. I don’t think one will tarnish the other.”
Mullin takes over the Red Storm after five mostly successful seasons under Steve Lavin, who mutually parted ways with the university on March 27. St. John’s made the NCAA Tournament twice during that time, including last season’s 21-12 campaign. The Red Storm struggled under Lavin in March, posting a 6-13 record in the month and 2-9 in the post season.
The hiring of Matt Abdelmassih as an assistant coach away from Iowa State is the first step by Mullin to reloading the Johnnies roster that lost five seniors and reconnecting with the New York City basketball community. Abdelmassih is a St. John’s alum. He was a manager under Norm Roberts and helped Fred Hoiberg revive Iowa State.
Abdelmassih was the Cyclones’ lead recruiter on top-ten forward Cheick Diallo of Our Savior New American, who was already a St. John’s target. Mullin has already met with junior center Chris Obekpa, who considered transferring from St. John’s before last season, but has yet to talk with sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan, who could opt for the NBA draft.
Those tasks are for the days to come. Today the St. John’s community rejoiced in the return of Mullin.
“This is really a glorious day,” Carnesecca told an energetic crowd. ‘I can’t tell you how lively you are, but I think everybody on the East Coast feels the same way”