Chris Mullin completes 1st month as coach at St. John's
NEW YORK (AP) Chris Mullin was headed to lunch, walking along the main street that borders the St. John's campus.
''I'm walking over here and my wife called and said, `What are you doing?' I said, `I'm walking down Union Turnpike going to lunch.' It's kind of strange really,'' Mullin said laughing Wednesday of his 30-year flashback to when he was the basketball star of stars at the New York City school.
Now he's the coach at his alma mater.
''I know I'm going to work but I'm also back at school,'' he said. ''It will take a while to find that groove, that rhythm. It's different now with my family not here but all those things will fall into place in time.''
The reaction from the people around the St. John's program has been ultra-positive since the Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer was named to replace Steve Lavin, who took the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament twice in five seasons.
Mullin is St. John's all-time leading scorer and he went on to a 17-year NBA career and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, the second as a member of the original Dream Team.
The school's last Final Four appearance was in 1985, when Mullin and his sweet left-handed jumper led the then-Redmen.
''The support has been tremendous and much appreciated. That's what's great about coming back to a place you're so familiar with,'' Mullin said.
What has surprised him most in his first 30 days is the ''energy and enthusiasm and it's the offseason.''
''I'm staying in the city right now and every time I go for a cup of coffee, everyone is pretty pumped up about St. John's,'' he said. ''And we have make sure we use that momentum.''
With the start of the season six months away, Mullin's only way to impress the fans right now is through recruiting. He has signed five transfers, three of whom will be eligible to play right away.
Cheick Diallo, the MVP of the McDonald's All-America game and the Jordan Brand Classic who played at Our Savior New American on Long Island, announced this week he will attend Kansas. That followed heralded recruit Brandon Sampson announcing he decided to attend LSU.
They were the first bumps in Mullin's time on the new job.
''You always have high expectations of getting every guy, but you also have to be realistic,'' Mullin said of losing Diallo and Sampson. ''I'm trying to forge relationships in a short time that have been going on in other places for years in some cases. I'm all into miracles but you have to build a program.''
Recruiting is the new frontier for Mullin, who was the general manager of the Golden State Warriors and a special adviser to the Sacramento Kings.
''In the NBA there is recruiting in the form of free agency. It's a different scenario,'' he said. ''In the NBA you do a lot of coercing-slash-convincing. There are differences, no doubt, but there are some similarities and so far it's been OK.''
The only players returning from last year's rotation are center Chris Obekpa and guard Rysheed Jordan. Mullin said both players, each of whom had some off-the-court issues last season, could be important pieces for his first team.
''He has tremendous talent,'' Mullin said of Jordan. ''You have to face the immediate future, getting through finals. But as far as talent, he is really gifted. I think I can really help him develop. I've had some good sessions in the gym with him.''
Mullin used words like ''on time, energetic and enthusiastic'' to describe Obekpa, one of the nation's top shot blockers.
The whirlwind start is slowing down some for Mullin, but that doesn't mean he will stop picking the brains of the many coaches he has played under, including his college coach, Hall of Famer Lou Carnesecca, who lives less than a mile from campus.
''I'm still trying to figure some things out,'' Mullin said, ''and I always will.''