For the past 30 years, Chris Mullin has occupied a section in the history book of St. John's basketball. Now he will occupy the head coach's seat.
Mullin agreed on Monday to become the Red Storm's 20th coach, sources with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to Newsday. The school did not make a formal announcement, but that should come Tuesday after Mullin signs the contract. A news conference celebrating his return to Queens is expected to take place Wednesday.
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Mullin replaces Steve Lavin, who was let go on Friday with a year remaining on his contract. School president Conrado "Bobby'' Gempesaw moved quickly to offer the job to Mullin, who topped the list of candidates and was the only one approached by the school.
News of Mullin's hiring was greeted by a congratulatory tweet from former St. John's teammate Mark Jackson, who said, "Outstanding choice!!''
The move is risky because the 51-year-old Hall of Fame icon never has coached and will be inheriting a program with huge holes to fill after the graduation of five seniors from this season's NCAA team. But Mullin's interest in coaching the Red Storm dates as far back as 2004, when Norm Roberts was hired.
Lou Carnesecca, who coached Mullin, praised the hiring. "This is a great day for the whole university," Carnesecca, 90, told The Associated Press. "He has always represented St. John's well and I'm sure he'll do a fine job as coach. People seem to be worried about his lack of coaching experience, but how many people have had the basketball education he has?"
The Mullin legacy at St. John's is towering. The three-time All-American is its all-time leading scorer with 2,440 points and led SJU to the 1985 Final Four as a senior, when he won several national player of the year honors, including the Wooden Award. He also is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, in 1984 and on the "Dream Team'' in 1992.
Mullin, the seventh overall pick of the 1985 NBA draft, played 16 seasons with Golden State and Indiana and was a five-time All-Star. As Warriors executive vice president from 2004-09, he put together two playoff teams. When St. John's offered its coaching job, he was working as an adviser for the Sacramento Kings, supervising college and international scouting.
He was a legendary gym rat with a reputation for highly developed court awareness. What he lacks in experience running a program, he expects to make up by hiring a staff with top recruiters and a veteran bench coach. Candidates include Kentucky assistant Barry Rohrssen, Iowa State assistant Matt Abdelmassih and Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney, who led Villanova to the 1985 NCAA title.
Rohrssen is one of the country's top recruiters. At Pitt, he filled the rosters with players from the New York-New Jersey area. As one coach said, "Pittsburgh really became 'St. John's' '' when Rohrssen was there.
Iowa State's Abdelmassih has helped Fred Hoiberg, another former NBA player who took over at his alma mater with no coaching experience, become successful. Abdelmassih has been recruiting prominent prep star Cheick Diallo of Our Savior New American in Centereach for Iowa State, but Diallo previously said St. John's also was on his list. It's also possible Mullin might hire his brother Terrence.
Mullin's staff will have to hit the ground running. Junior center Chris Obekpa and sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan are possibilities to declare for the NBA draft. Lavin signed only three players to national letters of intent, including top-50 prospect Brandon Sampson, and they likely must be re-recruited.