St. John’s about to start the “Mullin Era”
NEW YORK (AP) Chris Mullin handled everything thrown at him as a player. He was a two-time All-America selection at St. John’s and is the school’s career scoring leader, had a stellar 16-year NBA career and was part of the original Dream Team. All that meant election to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Now that he has started his coaching career at his alma mater, is there anything that has been a surprise in the first weeks of practice?
”Nothing yet,” he said Wednesday at St. John’s media day. ”And if something does come up, I’ll handle it.”
That confidence should get tested pretty soon as the Red Storm get closer to their first game, Nov. 13, against Wagner.
”I don’t want them anxious or impatient. When games come, they come. The schedule is all laid out,” Mullin said, sounding like an NBA veteran. ”You are going to make turnovers and miss shots, that’s basketball. There’s always going to be a balance but it does take time.”
Mullin walked into a program that lost four starters to graduation and two of the top returnees – Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa – left school. That meant there would be three returning players and they accounted for a total of 4.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Not one of them, all three combined.
Mullin hired two big-time recruiters as assistants – Barry ”Slice” Rohrssen from Kentucky and Matt Abdelmassih from Iowa State. They managed to bring in five freshmen and three transfers, two of whom are fifth-year graduates eligible to play right always.
”We need those guys to be leaders,” Mullin said about Durand Johnson from Pittsburgh and Ron Mvouika from Missouri State.
”I’ve always been a leader,” said Johnson, a swingman who averaged 5.7 points in two injury-plagued years at Pitt. ”But coming here as a fifth-year senior, and Ron as well, we can speak to the younger guys.”
Johnson said he is enjoying having a ”new chance with a new coaching staff and new teammates.” But there is one thing that’s making the transition tough.
”Except for the 10-page term papers they give you every day in graduate school, it’s been great,” Johnson said with a laugh.
Mvouika, a native of France, said the chance to play college basketball for one more season was ”one last shot.”
”It’s still a new experience but it’s been good once we got inside the lines,” said Mvouika who averaged 6.8 points in two seasons at Missouri State after a very good junior college career. ”I could use all the stuff I learned in the past against these younger guys.”
And there are younger guys.
”I’m also older than everybody,” he said. ”They call me `Uncle Ronnie.’ I’m about to turn 24 and some of these guys are 18. That’s a big gap.”
The predictions around St. John `s range from surprise team in the Big East – the Red Storm were picked 10th in the 10-team conference in the coaches’ preseason poll – to worrying about finding enough wins to reach double figures.
Last season’s team went 21-12 and lost to San Diego State in its opening game in the NCAA Tournament. That wasn’t enough to save Steve Lavin’s job.
Enter Mullin to the rescue and he’s surrounding himself with some big names in basketball.
Greg St. Jean, the son of longtime NBA coach Garry St. Jean, joined the staff from the Sacramento Kings where he was considered one of the top people in player development.
Then there is special assistant Mitch Richmond, Mullin’s running mate on the Golden State Warriors and, like his new boss, a two-time Olympian and a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. All that’s missing is Tim Hardaway to have a ”RUN TMC” reunion.
”I believe we are the first coaching staff to have two Hall of Fame players,” Mullin said. ”We are still a work in practice and we need hard work and effort from all these guys.”