St. John’s: Don’t lose hope in Chris Mullin just yet

(Photo courtesy of St. John’s Athletics)

An 0-11 start to Big East play and a 10-13 record overall wasn’t what anyone had in mind for the St. John’s Red Storm. Highly regarded transfers Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II were finally eligible to play, and added hope to an already talented team that showed great promise the season before.

However, an early injury to Marcus LoVett depleted a team that already struggled with a lack of depth. The Johnnies were competitive, but often outmatched. The team was inconsistent. All of this culminated into another disappointing season in Queens.

Another losing season has led many people to question the coaching staff. Sure, the team’s effort is always on display and it’s clear they continue to give 100%. That’s not easy to do while riding an 11 game losing streak. But, effort can only go so far.

Lack of adjustments and late-game execution has plagued Mullin and his team. His third season has been filled with low points, such as losing to DePaul by 22 at Carnesecca Arena, or scoring just 15 points in the first half against Butler in a 70-45 loss just a few days ago. Considering this has been a rebuilding effort since he arrived, it’s not a good look to take a step backwards.

In three years coaching at St. John’s, Mullin has an overall record of 32-56, and a 8-38 record in the Big East. It’s not pretty, but there’s a reason Mullin deserves another kick at the can next season. Next season, St. John’s is primed to welcome their best recruiting class yet.

Right now, the Red Storm only has seven scholarship players on the roster. In one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, that is simply not enough. You can also blame the staff for that as well, but what lies ahead looks extremely promising.

New Recruits

Shamorie Ponds has set the example this year, but even he has struggled at times. When LoVett went down, what was once a strength of this team became a weakness. Ponds has had to shoulder the heavy lifting in the back-court, and has been a primary target for opposing teams.

Next season, he will be backed up by combo-guard Mikey Dixon, who is eligible to play after transferring from Quinnipiac. Three-star shooting guard Greg Williams from Louisiana will also join the team as a freshman.

The real weakness of this team remains the front-court, and it seems that was a point of emphasis for Mullin and his staff.

Four-star forward Sedee Keita, who transferred from South Carolina last summer, is 6’9 and weighs 240 pounds. He’ll be a much-needed physical presence on the boards. Boubacar Diakite committed to St. John’s in the summer of 2016, and red-shirted this season due to knee surgery. The 6’8 four-star forward is expected to be fully healthy by next season.

Lastly, the Red Storm recently signed freshmen J’Raan Brooks, a 6’8 four-star forward from Seattle, and Josh Roberts, a three-star 6’8 small forward.

To put this in perspective, the Johnnies currently only have two players over 6’8. To add this much size in one recruiting class will help tremendously, and take the pressure off Traiq Owens as being the only effective big.

Lack of size has hurt the Johnnies’ abilities to be a more efficient team. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the only big St. John’s will lose is senior Amar Alibegovic.


Better Luck Next Year

Depth has been a problem, but it shouldn’t be next year. For all of Mullin’s flaws, he’s still found a way to recruit great talent to St. John’s. Now, I’m not saying this gets him a pass. His team has looked unprepared and undisciplined far too often. But, we need to take him off the hot seat and refrain from prematurely calling him a failure.

Amid all this mess is a good nucleus that was put in place. Next year will feature many new additions to that nucleus that should propel the Red Storm up the Big East standings. That will be Mullin’s real test as to whether his future is in Queens, or elsewhere.

Of course, what does talent matter if the staff in place doesn’t put them in a position to succeed? There’s no doubt that Mullin has to take a hard look as to who will be on the sideline with him next year. Perhaps they should look for someone who has more experience coaching that can guide Mullin along in his first run as a head coach.

As the saying goes, “there’s always next year.” For the Johnnies, that couldn’t be more true. But for Mullin, that could mean do or die.

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