St. John’s Goes Big, Hires Alum Chris Mullin as Head Coach

After letting Steve Lavin go on Friday, St. John’s University has found his successor. Per ESPN New York’s Jeff Goodman, the school has hired former Red Storm player and NBA All-Star Chris Mullin. No details of the contract were given.

At first glance, this is a great hire for St. John’s. After seeing underwhelming results in five seasons with Lavin, the program needed a high profile hire, and this is it. Mullin is a born and bred New Yorker who played at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn before spending four years at St. John’s and averaging 19.5 points per game for his college career. Playing under Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca, he was a three-time Big East Player of the Year and led St. John’s to the Final Four in his senior season in 1985. Since then, the Red Storm have yet to get that far in the NCAA Tournament.

Mullin was then drafted seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 1985 NBA Draft and played 16 seasons, making five All-Star teams before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

But now we have the elephant in the room. For all his accomplishments at St. John’s and on the professional level, Mullin has absolutely zero coaching experience. Contrary to belief, this is not a bad thing.

Look at what former Iowa State Cyclone and ex-NBA player Fred Hoiberg has done with his alma mater. The team had been wallowing in mediocrity since the Larry Eustachy years, and now it is becoming a regular Big 12 contender under Hoiberg’s watch. And to think that before he accepted the job in 2010, his only experience outside of playing basketball was working in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office.

Like Hoiberg, Mullin is of a similar cut. He spent a a few years as the GM for the Golden State Warriors, and most recently was with the Sacramento Kings in an advisory role. Simply put, he knows what it’s like to play in the college ranks and then move on to the next level, plus what it takes to get there and how things work in the pros.

But St. John’s fans should also worry about how good a recruiter Mullin can be, given his lack of experience. Keep in mind that the Red Storm are in danger of losing four-star recruit Brandon Sampson, who verbally committed to Lavin that he would play at St. John’s.

Moreover, there were plenty of more experienced candidates that St. John’s could have hired and still brought the same amount of buzz, if not more. Mullin’s ex-college and NBA teammate Mark Jackson is another notable alum St. John’s AD Chris Monasch could have brought in, especially because he enjoyed success coaching the Golden State Warriors for three years. Manhattan College head coach Steve Masiello is an ex- Rick Pitino assistant and is slowly turning the Jaspers program around for the better. Even longtime Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart and his signature havoc style would be great for a St. John’s team looking to keep up with the pack in the ultra-competitive Big East.

But sometimes an unconventional hire is what’s necessary, and St. John’s made the right choice in bringing Mullin aboard in spite of his lack of coaching experience. This is a man who knows the game incredibly well and his experience both playing for the school and in the NBA will only help him reach his players. The only thing he absolutely MUST do is build a strong coaching staff around him, and the rest could (hopefully) be gravy.

Given how much St John’s program is hurting, this hire really could not have been at a better time.

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*Section Photo credit to JCG Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Sports Illustrated