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Chris Mullin, Citing a ‘Personal Loss,’ Gives Up His Coaching Job at St. John’s

Chris Mullin stepped down as the head men’s basketball coach at St. John’s on Tuesday after four years on the job, citing a personal loss.

Mike Cragg, the St. John’s athletic director, announced the decision, saying the team had “progressed well” and noting Mullin’s “deep passion for this program.” Cragg did not give an explanation for the move.

Without elaborating, Mullin said in a separate statement that he had suffered a “recent personal loss.” His older brother, Roddy, a former Siena basketball player, died last month at 58 after battling cancer for years.

Mullin, 55, had two years remaining on his contract, and he had just completed his only winning season and only trip to the N.C.A.A. tournament as the St. John’s coach. The Red Storm lost to Arizona State in a First Four game last month.

Mullin, the greatest player in St. John’s history, said his decision had been extremely emotional.

“I took time to reflect upon my true values and believe this is the right time to make a change,” Mullin said in the statement, explaining his reaction to the personal loss. “I am extremely grateful to the administration, which has supported me and our basketball program on every level.”

Cragg said St. John’s would pursue an experienced coach “committed to building a championship-level program” and “ready to build upon the recent successes of our program with integrity by recruiting young men of high character.”

Bobby Hurley, a New Jersey native who is Arizona State’s coach, is reportedly considered a top candidate to replace Mullin. Hurley was a star point guard at Duke, where Cragg spent more than three decades as an administrator before being hired by St. John’s in September.

The Red Storm went 59-73 under Mullin, including 20-52 in the Big East Conference, after he replaced Steve Lavin in March 2015 and embarked on a substantial rebuild.

Bobby Gempesaw, the president of St. John’s, said that because of Mullin the “university community has grown closer, there has been excitement throughout campus.”

Led by guard Shamorie Ponds and several talented transfers, the Red Storm won their first 12 games this past season for their best start since 1982-83, when Mullin was a sophomore. They cracked The Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in four years but faded down the stretch, losing five of their final six games and six of the last eight to finish at 21-13.

Once a national power, the St. John’s program has not won an N.C.A.A. tournament game since 2000.

After the season-ending loss to Arizona State, Ponds announced that he would pass up his senior season to enter the N.B.A. draft. Also the team’s top recruiter, Matt Abdelmassih, left for a job at Nebraska, and Cam Mack, a junior college point guard, asked to be released from the national letter of intent he had signed with St. John’s.

Mullin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, led St. John’s to the 1985 Final Four and remains the school’s career scoring leader. Born in Brooklyn, he was a five-time All-Star during his 16 seasons in the N.B.A., with the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers.

Before taking the job at his alma mater to much fanfare, Mullin had no head coaching experience. He had been an N.B.A. executive, serving as general manager of the Warriors and a special adviser with the Sacramento Kings. His coaching tenure was highlighted by consecutive victories over top-five teams in February 2018: Duke and No. 1 Villanova, the eventual national champion.

St. John’s still ranks among the top 10 N.C.A.A. Division I men’s teams in wins, though the school has not advanced beyond the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament since 2000.

Source: NYT

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