(Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing at Big East Media Day in October – Photo by Jason Schott)
The St. John’s-Georgetown rivalry in the 1980s was defined by Chris Mullin leading the then-Redman against Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas and taking part in some legendary battles that brought the Big East to prominence.
Mullin, in his third year at St. John’s, and Ewing, in his first at the helm of Georgetown renew their rivalry as coaches of their alma maters on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Mullin, in his pregame availability on Monday, said of the rivalry between St. John’s and Georgetown, “I think the current rivalry is healthy, and the history is long, deep rooted, and authentic.”
Mullin said of the rivalry between himself and Patrick Ewing, “That’s the nostalgia part of the rivalry. Patrick and I go way back. Coming out of high school together, playing on two Olympic teams together, and competing against each other all the way through college, so our career timelines have been virtually the same. It’s been a long, winding relationship. It’s developed over time and it’s one that I cherish out of respect and admiration. That should add to the excitement.”
On the feeling of having “the enemy,” Georgetown, invade The Garden, “I think that’s all healthy. It’s what basketball and competing are all about. As long as there is respect, which there always has been. Competing with intense play, with the sole focus of winning is what we are teaching our teams.”
On whether he and Ewing stay in contact, Mullin said, “Of course we do. We’ve been in contact through pretty much our entire pro careers; especially after the 1992 Olympics we became very close. When I was in the front office and working for different teams and Patrick was coaching for different teams, we would always get together whenever he came through. It’s been a long friendship. We texted back-and-forth during the holiday season and before he took the Georgetown job we spoke about it. We have that type of relationship where we respect each other and fully trust each other.”
On what advice he gave Ewing when entering the college coaching world, Mullin said, “There were a lot of similarities to us when we were each in that situation, but the big difference was the Patrick had coached while I hadn’t. The transition from where he was coming from compared to where I was coming from was very similar, so I was just really transparent and gave him my personal experience. I think that allowed him to make his decision.”
On whether either of them believed they would be coaching for their alma maters, Mullin said, “I can speak for myself and say 100% no. This was not a plan. This was something that fell in place. It’s a new adventure and a new challenge. I’m enjoying it. You just never know. You always have to keep your options open because you never know where they might lead you. Right now we are just focused tomorrow’s game, but let me know tomorrow what Patrick says to this question.”
For St. John’s, this is a critical game because they have begun Big East play 0-4, and came into conference action with high expectations after starting non-conference play 10-2 and off a stronger than expected season last year.
Georgetown is a young team who got off to a surprising start in non-conference play, 10-1, and are 1-3 in Big East play.
Mullin said of Georgetown, “They have some very talented bigs. [Jessie] Govan is one of the best big men in the country, [Marcus] Derrickson is an inside-outside threat, their guards are attacking guards who want to physically attack the basket, and they have the old school Georgetown lengthy wings. Tough task, but should be fun.”
Mullin said of coming out with a defensive mentality, “We’ve struggled the first part of this conference season, but for the most part we’ve been solid. We’ve got to get back to that defense, guarding the ball, and the games we’ve been in are because we’ve played good defense. We have to get back to that. When we’ve done that, we’ve actually been good in the open court. That’s a key factor for us, and hopefully we will have some good energy tomorrow night. Not only in our individual defense, but also our team defense.”