Chris Mullin endured two-year rebuild in beginning of his tenure as head coach, yet insists process of restoring winning ways at St. John's is on track heading into year three as expectations for program have risen. (Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
JAMAICA, NY -- On several occasions during his first season as head coach at St. John's two years ago, Chris Mullin insisted and reiterated that the rebuild at his alma mater would be a process after inheriting a barren roster at a program where he had left an indelible mark three decades prior, graduating as the then-Redmen's all-time leading scorer.
The road may have been arduous, and more often than not, circuitous, yet the Hall of Famer and two-time Olympic gold medalist is confident that his efforts to resurrect the proud tradition in Queens have not dissipated as he begins his third campaign on the bench for the Red Storm.
"If you put it like that, yeah," he said as St. John's prepares to host Division II American International College in an exhibition contest Wednesday that serves as a prologue to the Red Storm's season opener against New Orleans on November 10. "I'm not quite sure I would have diagrammed it that way. My first year was pretty damn tough, but that's not a bad thing either. To go through those things and endure, I think there's a lot to be said about going through adversity, handling it the right way, keeping guys together and getting better, learning from it."
Going 22-43 over two seasons is certain to attract additional amounts of gray hair no matter how experienced a coach may be, but Mullin has managed to keep a firm perspective in the journey back to prominence, citing a similar introduction to his career in the NBA.
"I fell back on my experiences," he recounted. "In my rookie year, we were 20-62 (in 1985-86 with the Golden State Warriors). I walked into the NBA and had some really tough seasons that I could fall back on. I knew one thing: The way they turned around was being accountable, being responsible, and just maintaining focus and discipline. That's how you make things change, not by complaining and blaming."
The commitment to excellence was evident last season in a backcourt led by Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, who spearheaded a unit predicated on an active transition game responsible for leading the Big East in defensive turnover rate during conference play, causing takeaways on over 21 percent of opposing possessions. This season, improvement should be made on the interior as well, with Marvin Clark II arriving after a sit-out year to join Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe to form a trio of burgeoning big men.
"I told the guys, 'this year, you're either going to get better or get worse,'" Mullin said, offering no middle ground. "You're not going to stay the same. We're expecting big things. Exactly how it turns out, that will unfold as the season goes on."