BY DAVID RUSSELL
Chris Mullin, arguably the greatest player in St. John’s history, was introduced as the school’s 20th head coach on Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena.
Mullin led St. John’s to the 1985 Final Four, a season in which he was named College Basketball Player of the Year.
He was the first player to score 2,000 points in school history. And the fans are clamoring for the program to return to the way it was in its glory days under Lou Carnesecca.
“I still think St. John’s needs to be, first and foremost, a New York City team,” Mullin said. “We want to make our campus proud, our alumni proud and the whole city of New York proud about St. John’s University.”
The local connection was a factor. Steve Lavin brought respectability and relevance to the school, but he was a bit of an outsider. Now there is a New Yorker on the sidelines and a legend as the face of the program.
“President Eisenhower, after winning World War II, didn’t get that much space in the papers,” joked Carnesecca.
The recruiting will be a major factor for Mullin, specifically, recruiting locally.
“I guarantee you’ll 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 played in all of them. I know how to get in the backdoors. If not, I know the janitor in the gym, so I’m going to get there. I think it’s really important that we dominate New York.”
There have been examples of schools bringing back a legend to coach, with disappointing results. Matt Doherty at North Carolina. Clyde Drexler at Houston. Mullin isn’t concerned though.
“They’re two different things,” Mullin said. “My resume as a player is separate from my career as a coach, and that’s starting now. I don’t think one will tarnish the other. Hopefully, more importantly, promote it, make it even a stronger resume.”
Can Mullin bring the program back to where it was 30 years ago?
“No doubt about it,” Mullin said. “That’s why I’m here.”