A week of rumblings and rumors -- and a statement of support from athletic director Mike Cragg -- came to a head on Monday just before the national championship game tipped off: Chris Mullin was out as St. John's head coach. On Tuesday, it was official, as he stepped down from his post.
Mullin, the greatest player in program history, never got it going in Queens. He was bringing in plenty of talent and had one of the more formidable rosters in the Big East this season, but the team never put it together on a consistent basis. It backed into the NCAA tournament last month before bowing out in the First Four.
Now Mullin is gone. What's next?
Given that Cragg only took over in the fall and one of his first orders of business was to get rid of the school's all-time greatest basketball player, he has to get this one right.
This is one of the winningest programs in college basketball history, and there is tradition in the program -- though it's from the previous millennium. The Red Storm have been to two Final Fours, with the last one coming in 1985. They haven't been to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since 1999, have been to only five NCAA tournaments the past 19 years and haven't won a regular-season conference championship since 1992.
The tradition also comes with some issues. St. John's has essentially been trying to replace Lou Carnesecca since he left in 1992. Carnesecca led the Red Storm to 11 NCAA tournaments in 13 years. They've been to eight in the 27 years since he retired.
The old adage that St. John's needs to build a fence around New York City and keep the best talent home doesn't really apply anymore. While it would help if the Red Storm's next coach keeps highly touted players from the area home for college, the level of talent in the city isn't where it once was. That said, going into New Jersey, Philadelphia, the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area and the New England prep schools for talent is reasonable.
Cragg has to nail this hire. Whom might he pursue?
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State: This has been the name buzzing in the industry since the rumors about a potential parting of ways between Mullin and the Red Storm started last week. It makes sense on a number of levels. Hurley is a New Jersey native whose father, Bob, won 28 state championships at high school powerhouse St. Anthony (New Jersey) and whose brother, Danny, coaches at UConn. Hurley also played at Duke, where Cragg spent more than 30 years before going to St. John's. Hurley has spent the past four seasons at Arizona State, leading the Sun Devils to the NCAA tournament each of the past two seasons.