Chris Mullin got a thunderous ovation Monday night when he was introduced to the crowd at the Nets game at Barclays Center. The new St. John’s coach then settled back into his front row seat next to Barry Rohrssen and there was something fitting about it. Friends since they grew up in Brooklyn and both grads of Xaverian High, now they were back and about to embark on something big together.
Rohrssen spent last season on the Kentucky bench, serving as John Calipari’s lead recruiter. On Monday Rohrssen and St. John’s completed negotiations to have him join Mullin as associate head coach. The Red Storm also added another member to the family Monday when 6-11 Yankuba Sima from Delray Beach (Fla.) Elev-8 Prep committed to play for the Johnnies next season.
Rohrssen goes by the nickname “Slice” and has a tremendous track record for recruiting the New York area — once building and sustaining a pipeline that fueled
Pittsburgh’s success in the early 2000s — and Mullin has said from his start that recruiting New York would be essential to his plan.
But he will be more than just a recruiter for Mullin as he becomes a coach for the first time.
“Barry has held every position on a college coaching staff, from head coach on down,” Mullin said. “I wanted a strong staff and Barry’s a great addition.”
“This is special for me because this is home. My relationship with Chris goes back to when we were kids,” Rohrssen said. “Now we’re going to be talking to players about St. John’s basketball and New York, two things we both believe in. … What a great opportunity.”
As St. John’s most-decorated player was contemplating returning to his alma mater to coach, Rohrssen was a sounding board.
“We’ve been speaking on a regular basis our entire lives. The St. John’s thing was just another thing that came up,” Rohrssen said. “I just felt that for St. John’s, there isn’t a better choice than Chris Mullin. And for Chris Mullin, St. John’s is a special place.
“He took St. John’s to their last Final Four when he wore a tank top. I said ‘Why don’t you do it again with a whistle around your neck?’”
It is believed that Rohrssen and St. John’s agreed to terms on a six-year deal, as a source said having his contract “tied to Chris Mullin’s contract” was essential for him to leave Calipari’s staff at UK.
The school also made official the hiring of former Iowa State assistant Matt Abdelmassih, who has been working alongside Mullin since the day Mullin arrived in New York to accept the job.
Sima announced his commitment in a dispatch on Twitter. Both Maryland and Baylor had offered him scholarships and, at one point, Louisville and Arizona also had been involved in his recruiting. According to a source, Sima is expected to meet NCAA academic requirements for freshman participation.
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