After parting ways with Steve Lavin, St. John’s has hired Chris Mullin to be its new head basketball coach.
Mullin, 51, led the Red Storm to the Final Four in 1985. They haven’t been back since. In fact, they haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 1999.
Can the former St. John’s great bring the program back to relevance, this time as a coach?
“No question he can,” CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst Pete Gillen said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I loved Chris Mullin as a player. I met him once or twice. I don’t know him honestly, but he’s driven, he’s possessed – he’s going to really push the Johnnies. I’m sure they’ll get a great staff around him. They’ll give him good support financially to hire good assistants. So I think he’ll do a great job. It won’t happen overnight, but he knows the game inside and out as a top 50 player of all time, (the) greatest player arguably in St. John’s great history. So I think he’ll do a tremendous job.”
Mullin, a Brooklyn native, was Big East Payer of the Year three times in the 1980s. He was the seventh overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft, made five straight All-Star Games from 1989 to 1993, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
If he turns St. John’s around, he wouldn’t be the first rookie head coach to have success at his first stop.
“You saw Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State,” Gillen said. “NBA player, was an excellent player in the NBA for 10 years, has done a great job. You see Steve Kerr going to the NBA and doing Golden State. He’s done a wonderful job. I thought Mark Jackson at Golden State did a nice job before him. He had a little trouble with management, but coaching he did a real nice job. So I think the great players can become good coaches if they’re motivated. I think Chris Mullin will be motivated.”
But what’s the biggest challenge facing Mullin as he takes over a program that hasn’t been elite since the days of Lou Carnesecca? What’s a challenge that people don’t necessarily realize?
“Well frankly, they used to have new apartments on campus, new housing,” Gillen said. “You’re allowed then to give the players some financial means instead of living at home. If you can live at home and still get $800 or $900 a month – that was certainly a big plus when you’re at St. John’s. You could do it legally. They did that. And now they got houses, so they don’t have that thing where you can give the players money legally but you got to live at home.
“But I think what they can do is they got to connect with the AAU coaches and try to keep some players,” Gillen continued. “What happens is, the young players in New York city . . . wind up going to prep school in New England or Oak Hill down south in Virginia and different places. So try to keep some of the young players home so they identify with the city schools – with St. John’s and Fordham, etc. That’s the big thing.”
Gillen suggested that Mullin hire an AAU coach to help recruit and develop talent.
“You just have to get connected with the people that are connected with the kids,” Gillen said. “I think he’ll do a great job. I think he’s smart and he’ll get the right staff around him. I think the Johnnies will be back.”