By David Russell
Chris Mullin might look to the Mets for some inspiration as he heads into his first season as St. John’s men’s basketball coach.
“When I first came back around April and maybe soon after that, they couldn’t get a hit,” said Mullin, before throwing out the first pitch prior to the Amazin’s 9-4 win over the Phillies on Wednesday night. “Two weeks ago they broke [offensive] records like you wouldn’t believe, so it shows, hang in there, you never know what the next day will bring. A few trades will always help too. Talent always helps. Makes the coach look good.”
St. John’s never had a more talented player than Mullin, the three-time Big East Player of the Year and star of the 1985 Final Four team. He has orchestrated a roster turnover of his own since being hired five months ago. The senior-laden Red Storm made the NCAA Tournament last season under Steve Lavin, but with center Chris Obekpa transferring and Rasheed Jordan turning pro, Mullin was left to refill the coffers. St. John’s will have nine new players this year. The team was finally all on campus together last week.
“I met with them yesterday,” Mullin said. “I said ‘it’s even unprecedented in the NBA, turnover like that.’ So for these two months, train like crazy, get in the best possible shape we can, fitness-wise.”
While Mullin is about to start his first go-round as a head coach, this was his second time throwing out the first pitch for a New York City basketball team. His first time was at Yankee Stadium on May 27, and his practice since then paid off, because on Wednesday night, Mullin threw a strike to Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud, about 90 minutes after joking that he might have a dead arm.
“I did ok at Yankee Stadium and that one was off a red-eye and actually yesterday I was on the baseball field at St. John’s,” he said. “I might be over-prepared.”
While Mullin may be getting used to showing off the accuracy of his left arm, the title of head coach is still sinking in.
“I don’t know if I feel like a coach yet,” he said. “Because when they say ‘coach’ I still look over my shoulder, to see where Coach Carnesecca is.”
It was a busy summer for Mullin, who hit the recruiting trail for the first time. He recently added four-star forward Kassoum Yakwe from Our Savior New American to a recruiting class already ranked 39th in the nation according to 247Sp
“The one thing I am good at is taking things day by day,” he said. “Today was a good day, tonight will be a great night and then we’ll start again tomorrow. I kind of approach things that way anyway, but I think for this particular group this year it’s going to be the right way to go about it.”