JAMAICA, N.Y. - Before a St. John’s game, Regina’s Pizzeria and Café is usually decked out in red, filled with fans grabbing a slice then making the quick walk to Carnesecca Arena. There are a handful of seats inside, a flat screen and one sport’s jersey, a white top with red lettering MULLIN donning his No. 20 jersey.
Chris Mullin is New York City basketball. He came up through the ranks of New York City’s prep basketball to play at St. John’s during the peak of the Big East, three times being named to the all-conference team and leading the program to the 1985 Final Four. His NBA career is no secret, from five All-Star appearances to being a part of that first ever Dream Team.
And now he returns to campus as head coach. It is a hiring that was long overdue.
Mullin’s approach remains similar to the one he cultivated as an NBA general manager; assemble talent, foster confidence and put forward an environment that people want to be in.
"We have a tremendous group of guys who share the basketball. Right now we're learning when to move the ball and a lot of the shots should create themselves,” Mullin said at St. John’s Media Day last week. “I believe we've done a tremendous job of realizing that [spreading the ball] is the way to play. Ultimately, I want our guys to be very comfortable on the floor."
Part of that was hiring a staff that brings not just knowledge of the game but who are excellent recruiters. Sprinkle in an assistant with NBA experience such as Mitch Richmond and Mullin has the Johnnies pointed toward success.
But in a stacked conference, the recruiting victories that are sure to come down the road won’t help beat Villanova, Butler and Georgetown this year.
“I strongly feel we can return to the NCAA tournament,” junior forward Chris Jones said. “Everyone is adjusting well and getting accustomed to all the new faces.”
The November signing period promises to be a big win for St. John’s because what the school is offering on the court is not available anywhere in the Country. An opportunity to play for two Hall of Famers is a big deal. Freshman, Malik Ellison, the son of Pervis Ellison, an 11-year NBA veteran, discussed how the opportunity to play for Coach Chris Mullin impacted his decision to attend St. John’s. “He’s been everywhere that I’m trying to get to. He’s been to the highest level. I want to play at the next level, he was the best coach that can get me there.” Fellow freshman, Marcus Lovett “I can’t pass up being coached by a Hall of Famer, Olympian, original Dream Team member. Knowing Mullin was coming to coach here, cemented my decision.”
Fans can expect the Run TMC influence this season, the 1989-1991 Golden State Warrior offensive attack that he, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond made famous. St. John’s will play a fast paced NBA style where the team will look to push the tempo and take three-point shot opportunities. Mullin knows that mistakes will be made, “that’s basketball”, but the players should not be looking over their shoulders.
“They let us play whatever we want more or less, there are some plays,” freshman point guard Federico Mussini said. “It’s up to us. We are really free to express our way to play.“