Chris Mullin has had an illustrious Hall of Fame career as a basketball player, but when he nervously stepped up onto the stage in front of hundreds of intrigued media members, alumni and students at Carnesecca Arena, a new era of his basketball life emerged.
"Wow," Mullin said, during his official introduction as St. John's head coach. "It's great to be home. It's a surreal moment, it really is. St. John's University has meant so much to me and my family. When that opportunity was presented to me, I couldn't turn it down. I feel obligated to give back and we're going to try to win as many games as possible."
Mullin, the 20th head coach in St. John's history, stressed the key components that he needs to address in order to have a high level of success:
- hiring a strong staff;
- and developing his players with fundamentals that are taught consistently.
Before the head coaching agreement was already finalized, the Johnnies were jumping to start building a coaching staff as Mullin was able to hire "one of the best recruiters in the country" in Matt Abdelmassih.
That is just the beginning. Mullin has multiple connections, including Kentucky assistant Barry 'Slice' Rohrssen, who is rumored to be a candidate for a coaching position. Mullin will also speak to the current staff with an open mind.
"When I was mulling this (job) over during the weekend, I reached out to a lot of people and I got a lot of support," Mullin said. "I spoke with Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson and the first thing they all said was hire a strong staff. I'm going to rely on my staff. They will be hard working."
As a former player and a first time head coach, Mullin puts himself in a situation where success is not always a given. Fred Hoiberg and Clyde Drexler represent two ends of the spectrum.
Hoiberg has developed into one of the best coaches in the nation at Iowa State while Drexler won a total of seven conference games in two seasons at Houston back in the late 1990s. But, Mullin feels he is ready to find consistent success at his alma mater with the help of a strong support system and his knowledge of the New York area.
"I guarantee you, you will see me at the public school gyms, the catholic school gyms and the AAU gyms all over New York City," Mullin said. "You don't have to tell me where they are. I know how to get into the back doors; and if not, I know the janitors so I'm going to get in. It's important that we dominate New York [recruiting]."
As a former advisor for the Sacramento Kings, Mullin also spoke about how the college game is starting to change and how it's developing into something similar to the NBA because of the 19 and 20 year olds that are declaring for the NBA Drafts.
"The college game has become closer to the NBA game over the last few years," Mullin explained. "When I was here at school there was no three-point line and shot clock. The three point line is a huge factor in both the NBA and college. Both are also very uptempo."
Mullin, whose NBA knowledge will help change the style of play at St. John's, wants to have "the fittest team in the country." Mullin also wants to create a high tempo attack that is predicated on players developing to their highest talent level; he also stressed that his student-athletes need to maintain a strong character on and off the court to represent the University.
With the program in its current state - possibly only three scholarship returnees who played limited minutes last season - Mullin will be getting to work right away. He has already met with the players that are currently on the roster (including Chris Obekpa but not Rysheed Jordan) and has talked about what he expects from them as well as beginning to develop relationships.
The success level and expectations may not be strong in year one. But Mullin has brought a buzz to St. John's campus, New York City and the Big East.
If the all-time leading scorer in St. John's history recruits well and hires a notable staff, his passion and energy could take the Johnnies back to the top of the Big East.