New York — For a second time in the storied history of St. John’s basketball, the Chris Mullin era is over.
The school’s greatest player “stepped down” as coach Tuesday after four years on the job, citing a “personal loss.”
While the program progressed under Mullin during his time on the sideline, the results fell far short of his four sensational seasons on the court.
Athletic director Mike Cragg announced the decision, noting Mullin’s “contributions” and “deep passion for this program,” but did not detail reasons for the move.
Mullin, however, 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 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, an accomplishment he described as a “lifetime memory.” The Red Storm lost to Arizona State in a First Four game last month.
Mullin called this an “extremely emotional decision.”
“I took time to reflect upon my true values and believe this is the right time to make a change,” he said.
“I am extremely grateful to the administration, which has supported me and our basketball program on every level.”
Cragg said St. John’s will pursue an experienced coach “committed to building a championship-level program” and someone who is “ready to build upon the recent successes of our program with integrity by recruiting young men of high character.”
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.
The Red Storm 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.
St. John’s President Bobby Gempesaw said that because of Mullin the “university community has grown closer, there has been excitement throughout campus.”
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.
St. John’s cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time in four years but faded down the stretch, losing five of their final six 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.
That left the program, once a national power, still without an NCAA Tournament victory since 2000.
UCLA picks Cronin
Mick Cronin has been hired as UCLA’s basketball coach, ending a months-long search to find a replacement for the fired Steve Alford.
The university said Cronin agreed to a $24 million, six-year deal.
He leaves his alma mater Cincinnati after 16 seasons, having led the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last nine years.
Tennessee forward Grant Williams said he is entering the NBA draft to “test the waters,” but the consensus All-America selection hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning for his senior season.
... Kentucky forward PJ Washington will enter the NBA draft pool and hire an agent, ending his collegiate career after leading the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore.
An average of 19.6 million people watched as Virginia beat Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament championship game, an increase of 23 percent over last year.
The audience peaked at 23.5 million during overtime.