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End of Mullin error good for everyone

Chris Mullin's departure gives St. John's a fresh start that everyone deserves.

30 minutes before the national championship game started on Monday night, CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein tweeted what St. John’s fans wanted to read: Chris Mullin is expected to step down as head coach of St. John’s. Official announcement expected this week.

This breaking news made New Yorkers talked more about it than the national title game for an hour or so. That’s how happy they were about Mullin resigning.

Mullin resigned officially Tuesday. His decision turned out to be a day late and a dollar short. It confirmed his four years at St. John’s was a waste of our time, the university’s time and the players’ time. He should have never been hired in the first place.

Hiring Mullin raised so many questions from the beginning since he never coached a day in his life, and he had no idea college basketball was more than just coaching. Recruiting and working with boosters are as part of a job as coaching, and he never was into that along with coaching. An icon coaching his alma mater always can be risky since there’s so much pressure on him to lead the school back to its glory days, especially St. John’s. So much to lose than so much to gain for everyone involved.

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To say this hire was a publicity stunt is an understatement. It showed right there the university did not put much thought of this coaching hire when Steve Lavin received his walking papers as its coach. Anyone with a brain can tell you this hire would be awful.

His 59-73 record at St. John’s proved everyone’s point.

His boosters mention the Red Storm qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in first years. His critics say they finished the season losing five of seven, not to mention they failed to compete in a play-in game against Arizona State in the play-in game of the tournament.

His supporters talk about his players being out of trouble and graduating. His naysayers point out that not one of his players develop into productive players.

His bobos cite the Red Storm put out a quality effort. His dissenters moan about the players not playing defense and functioning well offensively.

We call this head coach a polarizing figure, and that’s the worst compliment anyone can have.

The bottom line results spoke poorly of Mullin, and that’s why he is gone. Say this much about him: He had the cajones to actually seek a two-year extension that he did not deserve. It takes so much hubris to ask his boss to give him an extension after a poor finish by his team.

In the end, he begged to be fired by asking for a contract extension. He knew better than to think St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg would acquiesce. He understood he probably was a goner sooner or later, so he seeked money just for St. John’s to pay him off when the university eventually fires him.

Cragg gets an opportunity to hire his own guy and make his mark for the woebegone basketball program, which is what he was hired for. He realizes that his hire will define his tenure as the athletic director. Second chance won’t be given to him, so he needs to make the most of it.

This means not hiring someone for another publicity stunt. Forget about naming a head coach that lacks sizzle. First-timers on the job shouldn’t qualify.

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley and Iona head coach Tim Cluess are nice hires, but St. John’s can do better than that.

Hiring Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard or Rick Pitino gets people talking. The Red Storm not only becomes relevant locally by hiring either of them, but they become relevant in the college basketball landscape for the first time since Mike Jarvis coached them. Anything short of that won’t do here.

When St. John’s fired Lavin few years ago, the powers to be figured they could get a big-name coach to take the basketball program to the next level. So much for that. No one wanted the job, and from hiring Mullin, they didn’t want to go pay up or have the stomach to go after that guy.

Cragg seems ready for the challenge of getting that guy.

He knows that’s what he was hired for.

As for Mullin, he can go back to doing whatever he enjoys doing.

His departure was his best accomplishment at St. John’s.

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