No sooner did Matt Abdelmassih land in New York Tuesday than he heard motorists honking at him. He heard anxious drivers cursing. He heard the squeak of brakes in relentless traffic. It all was music to his ears.
He was home. The 30-year-old recruiting wiz, who had enjoyed success as an assistant basketball coach at Iowa State, flew here to become the first member of new coach Chris Mullin's staff at St. John's -- Mullin's and Abdelmassih's alma mater.
"It's surreal, it's amazing. Words can't describe it," said Abdelmassih, who, like Mullin, is from Brooklyn and spent many hours in the St. John's gym -- the former as team manager during the Norm Roberts era. He grew up enamored of everything related to St. John's. Mullin was at the top of that list.
"I mean he's an absolute legend," Abdelmassih said after Mullin's introductory news conference at Carnesecca Arena. "I was born 90 days before the guy played in the Final Four. I'm 30 years old. It's crazy to be in the position I'm in. But you know it's taken a lot of hard work. I've been around the right people at the right time. I'm going to put myself in a position where I'm going to make Chris proud that he did hire me."
Although he didn't name any recruits, he said he will quickly begin calling some players whom he had been trying to lure to Ames, Iowa. He will try to now get them to enroll in Queens. Abdelmassih has been Iowa State's lead recruiter on Cheick Diallo, the 6-9 power forward from Our Savior North American in Centereach.
"We want the local kids to come to the Big East powerhouse that we know this should be," Abdelmassih said.
His love for basketball led to an internship with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he impressed Fred Hoiberg, then a vice president. When Hoiberg left to coach Iowa State, his alma mater in his hometown, he brought Abdelmassih along and eventually promoted him to assistant coach.
The man loved the job, but he loves St. John's more. He intends to bring the "blueprint" that helped Hoiberg succeed despite -- like his former Pacers teammate Mullin -- having no coaching experience.
Leaving Hoiberg was tough. "It was difficult for me, but it was easy for him," Abdelmassih said. "He knows what this place means to me. I was really emotional to leave a guy like that because he gave me a chance."
But now he has a new dream. He said, "I would have walked from Ames to here. I hope I'm here until the day I die."