by Josh Adams
New York- The Chris Mullin era as a coach will be coming to an end this week per Jon Rothstein. Mullin and the Red Storm will be parting ways as the new athletic director for the Red Storm, Mike Cragg, decided to take the program in a different direction.
Mullin’s overall record at the helm for the Red Storm was an underwhelming 59-73 over four years. In fairness, he did inherit a program that was decimated by the removal of Steve Lavin as head coach as well as graduations and transfers leaving Mullin to cobble together a team of transfers and bench players who saw little minutes in the Lavin era.
There was an improvement in the Red Storm’s record in Mullin’s tenure but his non-conference schedule was criticized this season for it’s lack of high-major opponents. Mullin also seemed aloof on the sidelines and relying on assistants to do the heavy lifting when it came to recruiting (Matt Abdelmassih who departed this week to join his old coach Fred Hoiberg in Nebraska) and in-game coaching in Gary St. Jean.
It was well known that Mullin was seeking a contract extension from Cragg since he only had two years left in his deal. When an extension wasn’t reached immediately, the rumors started to swirl that Mullin would be fired. Cragg issued a release re-affirming Mullin as coach saying in part, “Let me be clear and I said from the start, Coach Mullin is our head coach and we are not looking for another head coach.”
This apparently wasn’t suitable to either party as Rothstein reported 30 minutes before the Championship game. Sources say the two parties are working on a buyout for Mullin and he is expected to leave this week. It’s an end of a era to an era which held a lot of storybook potential with Mullin returning to a program where he was a legend as a player in the hopes of bringing the Red Storm back to national prominence. With his best player declaring for the NBA (Shamorie Ponds) and his best recruiter going to Nebraska (Abdelmassih) and Cragg wanting to have input on the direction of the program, it was simply the right time for both parties to mutually walk away.
It will be on Cragg now to find a replacement for Mullin. Names that have been floated already include Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley and Iona’s Tim Cluess. Cragg spent several decades at Duke so he might snag someone from the Coach K coaching tree. It’s all speculative at this point.
The legacy of Mullin and St. John’s will forever be intertwined. Mullin’s retired number will always hang at Carnesecca Arena. His accomplishments as a player will always be a part of St. John’s lore. What was a big risk/reward play by the administration bringing him in without any coaching experience is over. Mullin’s days of coaching his Alma mater are coming to an end. The new era of Red Storm basketball starts next season.