There will be a new, yet familiar face at the helm for the St. John’s Red Storm this upcoming season.
After a five-year run, the Steve Lavin era is over in Queens.
Under Lavin, the Red Storm compiled an 81-53 record with two NCAA tournament appearances, including last year’s 76-64 loss to San Diego State. The two sides mutually agreed to part ways at the conclusion of the season.
The Johnnies decided to go all in and tab Chris Mullin as their next head coach. Mullin is no ordinary hire—he is a St. John’s basketball icon.
Mullin played under legendary head coach Lou Carnesecca from 1981-1985. During his collegiate career, Mullin won the Big East Player of the Year three times and led St. John’s to the Final Four in 1985.
In the process, he became the leading scorer in program history with 2,440 points.
Mullin is taking the reins at his alma mater with no coaching experience.
He has spent the last decade working in NBA front offices. While the move to bring in a program legend with little to no experience with hopes of a program resurgence has high risks, it is also not unprecedented.
And it has proven to have high rewards.
Before taking the head coach- ing position for the Chicago Bulls, Fred Hoiberg was a vital piece in turning around the men’s basket- ball program at Iowa State Univer- sity.
Hoiberg is arguably the most prominent player in Iowa State history. Prior to being hired at his alma mater, “The Mayor” as he became known as during his playing career, only had spent a brief period an assistant coach and in the front office for the Minnesota Tim- berwolves.
Hoiberg left the Cyclones as the fastest coach to 100 wins in school history and a 115-56 record with four NCAA Tournament appearances in five years.
If Mullin brings the same results that Kevin Ollie has had at UConn, then the hire will be impossible to criticize. Ollie, who played at the University of Connecticut from 1991-1995, took over for Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun in 2012.
In just his second year as head coach, Ollie led the Huskies to a championship in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
The biggest challenge facing Mullin was overhauling a depleted roster. Only three players were left from Lavin’s regime—role players Amar Alibegovic, Felix Balamou and Christian Jones.
With six seniors gone, junior Rysheed Jordan turning pro and Chris Obekpa transferring, it had to be a complete reset for Mullin and his staff.
In response, Mullin brought in nine new players. The haul includes a mixture of freshmen, transfers and graduate transfers. Mullin called it “miraculous” giv- en the time he had to assemble a team.
Suiting up for the Red Storm this season will be five freshmen including point guards Marcus LoVett Jr. and Federico Mussini, forward Kassoum Yakwe, center Yankuba Sima and guard Malik Ellison; graduate transfers Ron Mvouika from Missouri State and Durand Johnson from Pittsburg; JUCO transfer Darien Williams; and Tennessee transfer Tariq Ow- ens.
The roster is loaded with potential, but it is too difficult to tell just how well the chemistry will be between these players when it comes time to take the court.
The plan is to be competitive. The Red Storm might not be cutting down the nets this season, but the foundation for the future has been laid.
No, Chris Mullin is not an experienced head coach, but he will undoubtedly be embraced by the school and the fans.
Will he share the same success peers like Hoiberg and Ollie have had? Only time will tell.
Matt Zeigafuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @mattzeigafuse.