Monday, March 30, 2015

An open letter to Chris Mullin as he returns home to coach St. John's

March 30, 2015

Mr. Christopher P. Mullin
Head Men's Basketball Coach, St. John's University


Allow me to be one of the many to extend their congratulations to you upon your acceptance of the head coaching position at St. John's University, the latest chapter in a storied basketball career.

Over the years, I, and everyone else who has been fortunate to observe your career; either up close and personal or from a distance, has seen you go from high school prodigy to all-time leading scorer in college, from first-round NBA draft pick to Olympic gold medalist to perennial All-Star, from a successful player to an equally successful executive, with a stop in the broadcast booth in between your second stint in the front office. Now, the latest evolution in your heroic tale sees you become a college coach, and there is no doubt in my mind that you will do the same thing with this opportunity that you have done to countless others over the course of your journey in this world: Take it by the horns and run with it, maybe even dial it up from what is now long distance like you did the thousands of shots you've taken.

Why am I so confident, you may ask? The answer is simple. Because of who you are, and what you've done, and from where you have come.

Like you, I am also an alumnus of St. John's University. In fact, I also spent time around the basketball program, except my involvement was behind a microphone as the play-by-play voice of WSJU Radio, the on-campus student station, and later as the writer of this very website that reaches out to you on this evening. I figured that since I was too short to actually play sports for a living, I needed to channel my passion some other way. Anyway, I digress.

You see, Chris, if there is one thing St. John's has taught anyone, it is the ability to appreciate values such as a hard work ethic, a commitment to success, and the pride one takes in representing oneself, and one's family. Even though you and I walked across the stage 23 years apart, we are still part of the same family, with the same institution conferring a degree upon each of us. And family, no matter the geographic or emotional gaps that divide, or the rifts that cause silence, always supports one another when push comes to shove. Therefore, it goes without saying that you have the support of not just myself, but every other member of the St. John's community, be it alumni, administration, students, faculty, parents; or most of all, the fans that will pay for the right to be in attendance during the season and bear witness to the latest chapter of your legend.

I am sure you have already heard the doubts, the criticism from all the naysayers, the belief that you may be risking your immortal legacy. I admit I fell victim to that last part in the past, and initially had my druthers here as well. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that you would not fail. Why? Because you simply will not let yourself.

A great deal of the prospective student-athletes you will soon visit in the recruiting process may be too young to remember watching the tail end of your career, but what they lack in memories, you can make up for with your Olympic gold medal from 1992, and your epic tales of life in the NBA. For their parents, especially those hailing from the New York metropolitan area, your mere presence in a living room will give them the same thrill.

For the people who doubt your ability as an in-game strategist because your record as a coach is 0-0, it gives you the chance to pleasantly surprise your skeptics. For the players who will soon count on you to guide them through the formative years of their careers, this is a chance for them to take instructions from one of the best, for you to impart your vast knowledge on the stars of tomorrow.

And as far as the media, well, you already know how to win that crowd over. Even if you were not the first choice of some, almost everyone will soon accept that you are the best choice, and given the relative youth that will make up next year's roster, they will be patient with you in the beginning. They all remember your past exploits, and if you can give them another reason to believe in you; which will happen sooner, rather than later, you have nothing to worry about.

The comparisons have already been bandied about, on both ends of the spectrum. Fred Hoiberg, they reference, and also the name of your former Olympic teammate Clyde Drexler, whose own homecoming did not achieve the fairy tale ending he had hoped for. You don't need me to tell you this, but all you need to do is be yourself. Be the man who turned a local commuter school into a national basketball powerhouse. Be the man who lifted the spirits of a fan base and inspired them to not only dream of success, but also expect it, year in and year out. Do that, and the rest will come just as smooth as that magical left-handed stroke that captivated so many, and enabled them to live vicariously through you.

You already have everything you need firmly in place: The support of an administration eager to add another shimmering facet to its profile. The name cache among those in the inner circle. The eternal adulation of alumni who view you as somewhat of a basketball deity, and never will feel any other way. The desire of a long-starving fan base hungry to once again be a part of something bigger, and finally, the confidence in yourself to take an already rich tapestry and weave unto it a new pattern, one that will resound through the ages.

The kingdom is yours once again, and if you ask me, I would say that the prevailing opinion is that it is secure in the lap of one of its native sons. I, and everyone else affiliated with St. John's University, look forward to watching you build upon it and make it bigger.

Go get 'em, Coach.


Jaden Daly
Founder/Managing Editor, A Daly Dose Of Hoops
St. John's University, Class Of 2008

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