The path has been cleared for Chris Mullin to return to St. John's to try to restore its basketball program to prominence. One day after "parting ways" with Steve Lavin, the school approached its iconic Hall of Famer to determine his interest in coaching the Red Storm.
Mullin and St. John's officials immediately entered into serious conversations about the job, multiple sources with knowledge of the talks told Newsday. No announcement was made last night, but the school wants to move quickly and wrap up negotiations before next weekend's NCAA Final Four.
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, who was high on the list of possible candidates for the St. John's job, reportedly received an extension through the 2020-21 season Sunday. Those negotiations began long before the St. John's job opened up, but the timing of the extension was a sure indication of Hurley removing himself from consideration at SJU.
Some factions in the St. John's athletic community were lukewarm to the idea of hiring Mullin, 51, because he has no coaching experience. But he enjoyed a 16-year NBA career and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, so few question his basketball knowledge. He later served five years as executive vice president of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors and currently is a front-office adviser for the Sacramento Kings, supervising that organization's college and international scouting program.
Mullin previously discussed the St. John's job with people associated with the school and understands the need to hire a quality support staff, including a veteran bench coach and an experienced recruiting coordinator.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg made a comparable and highly successful transition from NBA player to coach at his alma mater, and Mullin's 1992 "Dream Team" teammate, Larry Bird, returned to his home state of Indiana after his playing days in Boston and successfully coached the Pacers.
Whatever reservations some may have about the hire, there's no doubt that a Mullin return would reap rewards in terms of financial support for St. John's basketball and generate publicity that could be a boon to recruiting. All he has to do is say "Yes."