Chris Mullin: ‘Huge Impact Beyond Basketball’

St. John’s head basketball coach Chris Mullin dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Tuesday, and while Tiki Barber was excited to speak with Mullin in-studio, Brandon Tierney, a New York native, was ecstatic.

“Chris knows I idolized him as a kid,” Tierney said. “All of Brooklyn did. Who didn’t?”

Probably the fans of teams that had to go against him, that’s who. Mullin, a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, led St. John’s to the Final Four in 1985. Now he’ll try to do it again, this time from the sideline.

“Everything is timing,” Mullin said on Tiki and Tierney. “The opportunity presented itself, and it’s unique to come back to St. John’s University after all these years. But part of me felt like it was a natural fit. Although it’s been 30 years, it feels like yesterday. I think I can have a huge impact – not only on the basketball program and our players, but also help develop them for later on in life.”

Mullin is confident he can do that because that’s what Lou Carnesecca did for him three decades ago.

“What Coach Carnesecca did for me (to develop) me as a basketball player was one thing, and it helped me tremendously in my NBA career,” Mullin said. “But more importantly, now at 51, the things I’m able to deal with, and more importantly pass on – not only to my own children and my own family, but the players I’ll be able to touch – it’s more than just being a basketball coach. That part, the opportunity to coach at St. John’s is wonderful. But the responsibility to be a mentor and role model, I take very seriously. I think I can have a huge impact beyond just coaching basketball.”

Still, the next chapter of Mullin’s life comes with a bit of trepidation. After all, this will be his first time coaching on any level.

“I think the fear of the unknown, which is natural, (is) somewhat healthy,” Mullin said. “I’ve never coached before. I think that brings some anxiety. And not knowing what I don’t know. I’ve been on the West Coast for 30 years in the NBA, and now I’m coming back to New York and getting involved in the college game. There’s some similarities, but there’s also a lot of difference. I’ve got to learn each and every day what those differences are. I got to find my rhythm.

“Everything I’ve done in life and professionally, it’s taken a me a little time to figure it out,” Mullin continued. “And once I find my rhythm and find where I can fit in, then I think I’ll blossom. So that transition, although uneasy, I think is natural. And I think with fear, fear is okay. I think we all have fear, but you have to walk through it. Don’t act like it’s not there. It’s there, but walk through it and get to the other side. When you walk through it and get to the other side, I think there’s some great things on the horizon.”

That includes bringing in the best possible recruits every year – not just in terms of talent, but in terms of the type of player Mullin wants.

“I know this: Every team I played on, the coach looks better when you have great players,” Mullin said. “You can draw up a great play and you can do all those things, but you need players. So that’s where our focus is. We want to get the best talent, and we also want to put a team together. I envision a team passing opposed to dribbling. Body movement, being unselfish on offense and defense – and that takes time. It takes a little time to teach guys how to play that way. A lot of guys are not taught that way now. A lot of it is isolation and playing off the dribble. So it’s a combination of what their skills allow, but I also would like to play an NBA-paced game. Again, scale it back to the college game, but in essence, up-tempo, fast-paced, very decisive. If there’s a play out there, go make it. You can play that way when you have great players.”

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