When Chris Mullin was named head coach at St. John’s in the spring there was a great deal of excitement and with good reason. The program’s greatest player was returning, and while Mullin would be embarking on his first adventure as a head coach at any level the hope was that with a talented coaching staff he’d be able to ensure that the Red Storm would be a consistent NCAA tournament team.
But working with a roster that needed a lot of work upon the arrival of he and his staff, this process won’t be an overnight one for Mullin. And if anyone needed a reminder of this, they received it Wednesday night at Carnessecca Arena. Playing their first exhibition against outside competition, the Red Storm fell to Division II St. Thomas Aquinas by the final score of 90-58.
What could go wrong did go wrong for the home team, beginning with the absence of two freshmen expected to be key contributors this season. Point guard Marcus LoVett Jr. and power forward Kassoum Yakwe were both sidelined for the exhibition, as they’ve yet to be cleared for competition (both can practice) by the NCAA. But even if those two were available to Mullin, it’s unlikely that their presence would have changed the outcome of Wednesday’s exhibition.
As a team the Red Storm shot 37 percent from the field and committed a staggering 28 turnovers on the night, struggling with fundamentals (boxing out, ball control, finding quality shots, you name it) and chemistry on both ends of the floor. Given how many newcomers are in this group, the cohesion issues shouldn’t be seen as a major surprise. But there were no excuses coming from the head coach following the loss, with Mullin taking responsibility for what occurred on the Carnessecca Arena floor.
But to get beat as they did by St. Thomas Aquinas, which to be fair returns five of its top seven scorers from last season and looked as if they expected to win, is certainly an eye-opener for the Red Storm.
The good news for St. John’s is that the game won’t count against their official record, and they’ve got plenty of “teachable moments” to use as they move towards the start of the regular season. St. John’s has one more exhibition (November 7 against Sonoma State) before they open up the regular season against Wagner November 13.