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The Morning Dish – Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments
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The thinking seems to be that the main motivation for St. John’s to be ready to hire Chris Mullin is that the school wants to follow the Fred Hoiberg Model of hiring an alumnus who was a former NBA front office before making a splash as a college coach.

That may be true for St. John’s, but it also oversimplifies all of what the school will get when it hires Mullin, an announcement that is expected to happen Wednesday.

In hiring Mullin, St. John’s will be bringing back one of its greatest players, a three-time All-American and, perhaps even more impressive, three-time Big East Player of the Year, in an era when guys such as Patrick Ewing and Pearl Washington were in the league. It also will be bringing in a local product in New York City, which even in what is considered a state of decline is still a fertile recruiting area.

Mullin’s hiring also is going to be an ultimate nostalgia trip for many. In addition to his St. John’s career that included leading the school to its last Final Four in 1985, of course Mullin also has cache as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, a two-time Olympian and an original Dream Teamer in 1992. There is still a street cred for anyone who was associated with the NBA in the early 1990’s, and you better believe that will help getting recruits to look at St. John’s. The same goes for anyone associated with the 1980’s era of the Big East, and that is something that cannot hurt Mullin, SJU or the current Big East one bit.

On the surface, Mullin is going to have a major rebuilding job. St. John’s loses four key seniors, and it’s been reported that underclassmen Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa also are not expected to return. If that’s the case, nearly 95% of the Red Storm’s scoring will be gone.

Of course, this is college basketball, where seemingly every player has a price and transfers are always available. Hoiberg built a program quickly at Iowa State almost solely on transfers, and between those free agents and the pull of his NBA background, Mullin could easily have St. John’s winning again very quickly.

More coaching news:

  • George Mason is expected to hire Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen as its next coach. Paulsen quickly returned Bucknell to the top of the Patriot League after Pat Flannery’s retirement, but he’s going to a job that early on in its new conference looks like one of the toughest jobs in the Atlantic 10. It has been done at Mason before, so we’ll see.
  • Another very tough A-10 coaching job was filled on Monday as Jeff Neubauer has left Eastern Kentucky to go to Fordham. Neubauer did a very nice job in making EKU a consistent first division team in the Ohio Valley, and now he takes on a program that has been to one NCAA Tournament in the last 44 years. Neubauer is familiar with Fordham, having played against the Rams during his career at La Salle.
  • Utah Valley has its coach to replace the retiring Dick Hunsaker. Reports are that BYU assistant and former Washington and Kentucky forward Mark Pope is headed to the school to succeed Hunsaker, who led the program in its transition from the junior college level to NCAA Division I.

Side Dishes:

  • Loyola (Ill.) won the opening game of the CBI best-of-three championship series, defeating Louisiana-Monroe 65-58 in Chicago. The Ramblers finally solved ULM’s lanky defense in the second half, as Earl Peterson and Christian Thomas combined for 22 of Loyola’s 41 second half points. Loyola can clinch the CBI title with a win in the second game Wednesday night in Monroe.
  • Monday also was dominated by news of early departures for the NBA, as well as possible early departures.  Texas forward Myles Turner is going pro after one season after averaging 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game as a freshman. Based on college production, there’s no way Turner is ready for the NBA, but that long ago went out as a reason to go pro. Georgia State junior guard R.J. Hunter also is going to the draft, and whether he’s a finished product or not, his stock is likely never going to be hotter than after some terrific play in the NCAA Tournament.  It was a blast watching R.J. play for his dad Ron the past three years, would’ve loved to see one more year of them together but hardly a surprising decision. Two of Louisville’s best players also are turning pro. Coach Rick Pitino said on Monday that both Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier are heading for the NBA Draft. For Harrell, this was expected all season, as the big man participated in Louisville’s Senior Day activities, while Pitino’s mention of Rozier was something of a surprise, but the junior guard confirmed it to the Louisville Courier-Journal Monday night.
  • Finally, a quality article by Mark Whicker of the Long Beach Press-Telegram last week about Division I schools and their reluctance in hiring coaches from the small college ranks. This is one that continues to baffle. Bo Ryan at Wisconsin (as well as former state colleague Dick Bennett), Tony Shaver at William & Mary, Tim Cluess at Iona, Jim Ferry at Duquesne, as well as Dave Paulsen…are all coaches who have had considerable success at the D-I level after winning at lower levels of college hoops. That more of these coaches don’t get head coaching jobs shows just how little imagination goes into hiring at the D-I level by athletic directors…or shall we say search firms. It shouldn’t take that much inspiration to promote quality head coaches to the higher levels of the sport.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • The NIT semifinals are tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York. Temple and Miami (Fla.) face off in the first game, while Stanford and Old Dominion meet in the second.
  • The CIT semifinals also are tonight at campus sites. New Jersey Tech has to hit the road after three exciting home wins, traveling across country to face Northern Arizona. Tennessee-Martin has a much shorter trip, some 2,000 miles shorter and less than three hours by bus to take on Evansville in the other semi.

Have a terrific Tuesday.

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