Chris Mullin back at Warriors game in new TV role

The friendship of Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson endured through

their days as high school stars in Brooklyn, to their time as

teammates at St. John’s and then through lengthy, successful NBA

careers that included a three-season stint together in Indiana.

That’s why it meant so much to both men that Mullin worked with

the ESPN broadcasting crew for Jackson’s coaching debut with the

Golden State Warriors on Sunday night. Mullin, who addressed

players from his former Warriors franchise at Saturday’s practice,

joined two more Jackson pals and former television colleagues –

Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen – to announce the game against Chris

Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers in the season opener and

Christmas finale.

”To me it’s fun for that reason to watch Mark coach his first

game,” Mullin said. ”I would have been watching anyway. So to

come and do it here and get a closer look, it’s even better.”

Van Gundy and Breen pulled off a remarkable double dip after

beginning their day in Dallas calling the Heat’s 105-94 win over

the Mavericks before hopping a charter flight to the Bay Area for

the nightcap.

Jackson insisted he wouldn’t get so caught up in the game and

forget to appreciate those three. He, Breen and Van Gundy worked

their final game after four years together as ABC’s top team during

the NBA finals. Van Gundy also was an assistant coach with the

Knicks when Jackson played in New York.

”It means a lot. When I’m sitting there and I see Chris Mullin

sitting at practice, talking to them, and I’ll look over and I’ll

see Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen, I’m an emotional guy, I’m a guy

that doesn’t mind shedding a tear,” Jackson said before the game.

”It’s funny because when I was younger I used to look at Dick

Vermeil and be like, `what a clown.’ But as you get older, I have

an appreciation for it. You no longer take for granted the

important things – great friendships, teamwork, togetherness, your

health, your family, things that really matter.

”I will look at those guys – and I’m not a coach that’s going

to be caught up in the game – there will be some time when I’ll

look and be extremely thankful for the time I spent with all of

them.”

Mullin, recently enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball

Hall of Fame, hadn’t been at Oracle Arena since being dismissed as

Golden State’s executive vice president of basketball operations

after the 2008-09 season. He can see himself becoming a general

manager again but is enjoying his TV gig for the time being.

While talking to the Warriors on Saturday, Mullin said he wished

them luck and expressed his deep admiration and respect for Jackson

– and told them how they can trust that Jackson is ”going to do

everything he can do to put you in a position to succeed and

shoulder the burden for them as much as he can.”

Mullin believes in Jackson’s defense-first focus – Jackson

guaranteed a playoff berth for this season – and that the Warriors

can still be a high-scoring team with that approach.

”Mark, with no coaching experience, there’s been a lot made

about that. But being a player for so long, a lot of that will help

him. The experience he needs to acquire, he’ll get that along the

way,” Mullin said. ”We knew each other in high school, we went to

college together, and through the NBA we always stayed in contact.

Then we reunited in Indiana, shoot, 12 years later. We’ve always

been close.”

After a few minutes chatting up Jackson near the bench during

pregame warmups and reflecting on their longtime friendship and

dissecting his team, Mullin was abruptly pulled away by a

producer.

”I’m on the clock,” he said with a smile as he departed to

start work.