Chris Mullin, arguably the greatest player in the history of St. John’s basketball, stepped down as the Red Storm’s head coach after 59-73 record in four seasons.
Mullin never coached before he accepted the St. John’s job in 2015. He was primarily a front office executive in the NBA and didn’t pivot to coaching right away after he retired from playing basketball. Mullin cited personal reasons and the recent loss of his older brother to cancer a couple months ago as one of the reasons he decided to resign from St. John’s.
“I took time to reflect upon my true values and believe this is the right time to make a change,” Mullin said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful to the administration, which has supported me and our basketball program on every level. I’ve been amazed by our coaches, trainers, managers and staff who work relentless hours, which enables this team to grow and thrive. I’ve been honored to coach the young men who are the heart and soul of this program. It’s a job I will always cherish.”
St. John’s finally made it to March Madness this year after lurking on the bubble the last month of the regular season. The Johnnies were awarded an #11 seed play-in game but were bounced by Arizona State.
In a little twist, St. John’s is currently pursuing Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley. Rick Pitino also put in a call to St. John’s and expressed his interest in the position. With UCLA hiring Mick Cronin from Cincinnati yesterday, Pitino is no longer on UCLA’s radar.
Mullin Gravy Days
Chris Mullin led St. John’s to a Final Four berth in 1985 during the peak days of the Big East, when three schools from the Big East made the Final Four. St. John’s lost to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the semifinals. Villanova went on to beat Georgetown in a historic championship game.
Villanova won two titles in the last four seasons under Jay Wright. Meanwhile, St. John’s is still looking for their first championship. The Red Storm hoped that Chris Mullin could restore the Johnnies back to their old glory days. However, it was a much bigger hill to climb than everyone thought.
Mullin struggled in his first three seasons before winning 21 games this season. The Big East is no joke and St. John’s had been getting crushed in the recruiting game. There was a time when St. John’s landed the best players in the metropolitan area, but these days the kids rather go upstate to play for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Meanwhile, all the blue chippers head southbound to basketball power houses like Kentucky, Duke, and Louisville.
Mullin is not a high-profile coache constantly on the road pitching St. John’s and NYC to top recruits in the country. However, he was super critical of the rest of his coaching staff for their lack of recruiting skills. Mullin relied heavily on assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih to entice kids to come to Queens, NY. However, once Nebraska hired the Mayor, Mullin was doomed. Matt Abdelmassih left St. John’s to join Fred Hoiberg in Nebraska. As an immediate result, one of their top recruits decommitted from St. John’s.
Mullin’s days were numbered when the school hired a new athletic director. Mike Cragg, who spent three decades at Duke, has been eying ex-Duke player Bobby Hurley to replace Mullin.
Hurley Back to Tri-State Area?
Hurley played his high school ball at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, New Jersey. Hurley’s father, one of the all-time greatest coaches from New Jersey, coached St. Anthony’s and led them to multiple state titles. Hurley headed to Duke to play his collegiate ball in the early 1990s with Grant Hill and Christian Laettner.
Hurley played in the NBA for a couple of seasons before he suffered a nearly-fatal accident. He never fully recovered from his injuries and his career ended prematurely.
Hurley pivoted to coaching and became an assistant coach under his younger brother Danny Hurley, who coached at Wagner and then Rhode Island. Bobby finally got a chance to become a head coach when Buffalo gave him his first job. After a couple seasons with Buffalo, Hurley headed out west to Arizona State.
The Pac-12 was a super weak conference in both basketball and football this year. Washington was considered the best of a sorry bunch, but they didn’t last very long in the tournament. Oregon snuck into the big dance by running the table in the Pac-12 tournament. The Cinderella Ducks had a #12 seed and pulled off a couple big wins to advance to the Sweet 16 before they were picked off by the eventual champions, Virginia.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (23-11) almost bubbled the tournament this year, but had a play-in game against St. John’s. Arizona State won the First Four battle, but were knocked out by #6 Buffalo in the Round of 64.
St. John’s AD Mike Cragg knows Hurley from his Duke days and he is St. John’s top candidate. Hurley has a hefty buy-out for his contract with Arizona State. Supposedly, the Vitamin Water founder is a big booster for St. John’s and said he could step in to assist with the buy-out fee.