St John's coach Chris Mullin quits, cites 'personal loss'

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NEW YORK (AP) - Chris Mullin "stepped down" as basketball coach at St. John's on Tuesday after four years on the job, citing a "personal loss."

Athletic Mike Cragg director announced the decision, saying the team "progressed well." He noted Mullin's "contributions" and "deep passion for this program," but did not detail any reason for the move.

Mullin said in a separate statement he had suffered a "recent personal loss," without elaborating. His older brother, Roddy, died last month at 58 after battling cancer for years. Gerard Richard Mullin played basketball at Siena from 1979-83.

Mullin, the greatest player in school history, had two years remaining on his contract. The 55-year-old coach was coming off his first winning season and only trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm lost to Arizona State in a First Four game last month.

St. John's went 59-73 under Mullin, including 20-52 in Big East play, after he replaced Steve Lavin in March 2015 and embarked on a substantial rebuild.

Led by star guard Shamorie Ponds and several talented transfers, the Red Storm won their first 12 games this past season for their best start since Mullin was a sophomore in 1982-83. They cracked the AP Top 25 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 21-13.

St. John's squeezed into the NCAA Tournament as the last team to receive a bid and lost 74-65 to Arizona State in Dayton, Ohio. That left the program, once a national power, still without an NCAA Tournament victory since 2000.

In the weeks that followed, Ponds announced he would pass up his senior season to enter the NBA draft and hire an agent. Top recruiter Matt Abdelmassih, an assistant to Mullin, left for a position on the new staff at Nebraska under old boss Fred Hoiberg. And touted recruit Cam Mack, a junior college point guard, asked to be released from his national letter of intent.

Mullin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and 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 NBA with Golden State and Indiana.

Before taking the job at his alma mater to much fanfare, Mullin had no head coaching experience. He was an NBA executive, serving as general manager of the Warriors and a special adviser with the Sacramento Kings.

St. John's still ranks among the top 10 Division I programs in wins, though the school hasn't even been to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament since 2000.

Mullin's coaching tenure was highlighted by consecutive victories over top-five teams in February 2018: Duke and No. 1 Villanova, the eventual national champion.

In an interesting twist, Bobby Hurley, the Arizona State coach with a New Jersey background, is reportedly thought to be a top target for St. John's to replace Mullin. Hurley was a star point guard at Duke, where Cragg spent more than three decades before being hired by St. John's last September.

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