St. John’s season preview: Mullin Era begins

In a sport dominated by big-name head coaches, St. John’s will open the 2015-2016 season Friday night against Wagner led …

In a sport dominated by big-name head coaches, St. John’s will open the 2015-2016 season Friday night against Wagner led by its biggest offseason recruit, Chris Mullin. The former national player of the year under legendary St. John’s coach Lou Carnesseca, Mullin was hired in March to replace Steve Lavin. Mullin, who led St. John’s to the Final Four in 1985, has his work cut out for him if he wants to reach similar heights after taking over a nearly new roster.

While the Red Storm are not expected to repeat last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance, the fresh faces in the program and the familiar one at the helm bring hope that the future is bright for the scarlet and white.

King of Queens returns

St. John’s all-time leading scorer is coming home to coach the Red Storm after a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. Mullin will be the 20th head coach in St. John’s history and, despite spending nearly a decade in the NBA as an executive, this will be his first head coaching position.

He takes over a program that was reinvigorated under former UCLA head coach Steve Lavin. During Lavin’s five-year tenure at St. John’s, the Red Storm reached the NCAA Tournament twice, including Lavin’s initial season in 2011. That marked the Johnnies’ first appearance in the Big Dance since 2002.

Roster overhaul

Under their first-year head coach, the Red Storm have welcomed in nine new student athletes to go along with just three returning players from a year ago. Most critically, defensive stalwart Chris Obepka, who led the NCAA in blocked shots his freshman year, did not want to play under Mullin’s new regime and transferred to UNLV to finish out his collegiate career.

Players to watch

Freshman Frederico Mussini will be asked to run the point for St. John’s after the team’s top recruit, Marcus LoVett, was ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA on Wednesday. The Italian Mussini was inconsistent in the team’s two preseason games.

Not all of St. John’s new additions are underclassmen as the Johnnies will be relying heavily on the senior transfer Durand Johnson. After sitting out last season due to a torn ACL at Pittsburgh, Johnson will be one of the primary scoring options on this mostly young Red Storm roster.

BEN SHAPIRO. Special to amNewYork