Torch Photo/Nick Bello
More than four years to the day that St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin was hired, the former St. John’s star made the surprising decision to step down.
That was made official last Tuesday, and more than a week later St. John’s remains without a new head coach in place.
Bobby Hurley, an early candidate for the job, announced he is in talks to extend his contract with Arizona State. Porter Moser said he will remain at Loyola-Chicago following reports of a lucrative longterm contract offer from St. John’s.
Other candidates mentioned in news reports include longtime Iona coach Tim Cluess and Mullin’s Assistant Coach Greg St. Jean. But it’s not clear what the university’s level of interest is in either coach.
All of this leaves the program in a state of uncertainty in the wake of Mullin’s decision to step down following the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 2015.
“This has been an extremely emotional decision, but after a recent personal loss, I took time to reflect upon my true values and believe this is the right time to make a change,” Mullin said in the press release, referring to the death of his brother Roddy.
Mullin continued by saying, “I am extremely grateful to the administration, which has supported me and our basketball program on every level.”
Following Mullin’s announcement, another press release was sent with comments from both St. John’s Athletic Director Mike Cragg and University President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw.
“Coach Mullin restored excitement to our men’s basketball program and represented St. John’s in a positive way,” Cragg said.
“We thank Coach Mullin and his staff for their commitment to running a program that we can all be proud of,” he concluded.
In his tenure at St. John’s, Mullin coached the Red Storm to a subpar 59-73 record, which included a first four loss to Arizona State at the NCAA tournament this year.
Although this past season was the best season for Mullin and his staff, the few weeks following the season’s end have not been too kind, as Shamorie Ponds announced that he was leaving for the NBA Draft and Assistant Coach Matt Abdelmassih announced that he will be leaving to join Fred Hoiberg at the University of Nebraska.
Although Ponds’ decision to enter the draft was conceivable, Abdelmassih’s departure was not expected. During the Mullin tenure, Abdelmassih was in charge of most of the recruiting duties and was also responsible for landing key transfers such as Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon.
Along with Abdelmassih leaving came the announcement on Friday that Cam Mack, a highly regarded junior college transfer who committed to St. John’s November 2018, asked for a release; further suggesting the influence Abdelmassih had on the program.
On April 8, a few hours after the report of Mullin stepping down was announced, it was also announced that Nate Tabor, a four-star recruit from Waterbury, Connecticut, also decommitted per Evan Daniels of 247 Sports. Tabor committed to St. John’s on Jan. 2 and was recruited by Abdelmassih.
With the departure of both Abdelmassih and Mack last week, St. John’s fans voiced their displeasure with Mullin and his staff on Twitter prior to his decision to step down. However, to counteract any negativity toward Mullin, Cragg said in a Saturday morning statement, “Let me be clear and I said from the start, Coach Mullin is our Head Coach and we are not looking for another Head Coach.”
With Mullin leaving, Cragg now has to scramble to find a new Head Coach. “Our search for the 21st Head Coach in the storied history of our basketball program is underway,” Cragg said in a press release.
“We are committed to building a championship level program, so we will aggressively search for an experienced coach capable of running a high-level Division I team in New York City, someone who is ready to build upon the recent successes of our program with integrity by recruiting young men of high character,” Cragg said.
For now, as the dust clears from Mullin’s exit, St. John’s fans are left to wonder what went wrong … and of course, what’s next?