Mullin Reaffirms Plan At Big East Media Day

Mullin answered questions at Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Athletic Communications)

Mullin answered questions at Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Athletic Communications)

Brandon Mauk, Digital Sports Manager

Just like the good old days, Chris Mullin was the biggest draw at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. He wasn’t there to talk about the good old days, though. He was all about business in his first season at his second go-around at St. John’s.

The St. John’s legend made his first appearance at Big East Media Day as the new head coach of the Red Storm. Instead of dwelling on the days when he and coach Lou Carnesecca led the team to a Big East championship and a Final Four appearance, Mullin made it clear that he is focused on rebuilding the program. He’s sticking to the plan despite low expectations for his rookie season.

“I’m really focused on trying to help these guys improve their game and have fun doing it, play together and build a camaraderie with their teammates,” Mullin said. “That other stuff, I really don’t think a lot about it. It’s old and nostalgic. I’m living in the now.”

Despite having no prior experience coaching (he was the executive vice president of Basketball Operations for the Golden State Warriors from 2004-09, so he does have experience in building a roster), Mullin is passing his first major test going into his first season back in Queens.

Since day one, Mullin has been straightforward about what his plan has been for his alma mater. He doesn’t want to talk about the past. He wants to recreate it. He is trying to restore St. John’s as a significant player in the recruiting game, both nationally and specifically in the New York metropolitan area. That will be the next step going forward.

“I know coach Carnesecca recruited with a token and that worked pretty good, so I’m going to use his philosophy. MetroPass, not a token,” Mullin said.

After being named head coach in April, Mullin went straight to work to fix an unstable program left by Steve Lavin. He’s put together a talented assistant coaching staff around him, particularly former John Calipari recruiter Barry “Slice” Rohrssen and former Iowa State assistant and St. John’s alumnus Matt Abdelmassih.

Mullin also added Greg St. Jean, who worked with Mullin with the Sacramento Kings from 2013 fellow NBA Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond as a special assistant. It’s an overall impressive staff that should be a big help for the Hall of Famer in his first foray into coaching.

“They better be, that’s why I hired them. If not I’m going to fire them,” Mullin quipped.

The plan remains the same for Mullin going into the season. St. John’s and New York City has not been the major attraction they once were when Mullin called St. John’s and Madison Square Garden home. Many kids have been leaving the city for private high schools in New Jersey and major college programs outside the northeast, so St. John’s has been a middling program for the last 15 years. Mullin wants to try and reverse that trend.

“I think that always exists. When I came out, there were guys that left. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Mullin said. “There’s also kids that want to stay home, play in front of their families, play at Madison Square Garden. That’s not new.”

With only three lettermen from last year’s NCAA Tournament team returning this year, the roster went through similar turnover.

Mullin did everything he could to put together a team. He recruited six freshmen, three of which were four-start recruits and four transfer players. It’s a mix of young talent and seasoned veterans.

It is all part of the identity he wants to establish for the program. An underdog, hard-working mentality that does all the little things to come together to grind and win.

“I’m trying to establish a culture of hard work, unselfishness, dedication and discipline. The skill development will come. The most important advice I can share now is what worked for me as a player: physical conditioning, mental approach and skill development.”

After a summer’s worth of a complete overhaul of the program, predictions for Mullin’s rookie season are not bright. The Coach’s Poll was released for media day, and St. John’s was voted to finish dead last in the Big East.

That’s not what the fans want to hear. As seen by his construction of the roster and the recruiting of assistant coaches and players, Mullin is aware, but unconcerned about the uphill battle that awaits him. It’s all about progress.

“There will be a time for that, probably not this year. I’m just asking them to get in the best shape that they possibly can physically. Mentally, be composed and unselfish, and this year we’ll live with the results. I think there will be time for expectations but not this year,” Mullin said.

Mullin is focused on the future, but he still lives in the now with a plan to reach that goal. He made that clear again for anyone who wants to dwell on the past, whether it’s the glory days of St. John’s or it’s darkest hours.