Warriors.com (DotCom): How does being a Hall of Famer sound to you?
Chris Mullin (CM):
It’s an incredible honor. I feel like I’m accepting it for a lot of people over the course of my basketball career and my life. I feel good about it. I just feel good for the people who have helped along the way. It’s a great honor and I’ll accept it on behalf of a lot of people.
DotCom: Can you talk about some of the people who helped you get to Springfield?
So many. Starting back growing up in Brooklyn on Troy Avenue and obviously that’s my family: my mom and dad, my sister and my three brothers. My parents had the biggest influence on my life. Basketballwise, I didn’t have to look very far. The first person I wanted to be like was my older brother. In the backyard, that’s the guy I wanted to try and at some point beat him. In Brooklyn and New York City itself, basketball is such a huge part of the city and part of everything in New York. The Knicks team I grew up watching, I went to Power Memorial, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s jersey is hanging up in that school. There’s not a lack of influence in New York. First and foremost, it was my family and my coaches along the way that not only taught me the game, but taught me a lot of life lessons as well.
DotCom: So when did you finally beat your brother?
I was probably either a sophomore or junior in high school. It didn’t go well either. I won the game, but I paid for it physically. He wasn’t too happy about it … I started growing. I was probably 5-10, 5-11 as a sophomore in high school and then I had a huge growth spurt. I learned the game as a guard and then when I grew, lucky enough my coaches let me stay in the backcourt. They let me to continue to play the guard spot and things worked out.
DotCom: What was your high school coach like?
A huge influence on me, not just basketballwise. Jack Alesi, a guy I met when I was 10 years old. He actually coached me at grade school and later coached me at Xaverian, the high school I graduated from. He really had a great insight into basketball. We spent so much time together driving to games, he’d take me to pro games talking basketball. He’s the first guy that even brought up the subject of me playing in the NBA. I had grown, I was probably 6-5 at the time and I was being recruited pretty heavily and he just said, “Do you think you can play in the NBA?” I was like, “What, are you crazy?” He actually referenced Ernie Grunfeld. He said “You’re about the same size,” and he said, “You’re probably a better shooter than him right now,” which I didn’t believe. But just the fact that someone put that thought in my mind … I think I shrugged it off right away, but then as I went on to St. John’s and started having some success, I kind of went back to that. “Who knows, that crazy thought might have a little glimmer of hope.” It’s people like that throughout my career and throughout my life that have always supported me and probably thought more of me than I did myself.
DotCom: Was there a point at St. John’s where you knew you were going to play in the NBA?
I had a really good sophomore season. It was one of my favorite teams that I played on. We had a really, really good team. I think I played with four seniors and I was the only younger guy playing and really benefitted from that. Things just seemed to click. I started scoring pretty easily and I felt confident handling the ball. My sophomore year, not that players left (college early to enter the NBA Draft) then, I remember someone approached me and said, “You could go right now.” I didn’t feel ready; it wasn’t something that was the norm back then so I didn’t think much of it. Getting into USA Basketball, in ’81 I went on a tour with a bunch of college guys over to Asia and ’83 was the Pan Am Games. Now I started to play against the top flight college guys and doing well. I’m at that level now and felt confident playing against the top guys. St. John’s was so good, I never thought about leaving. I never wanted to leave there.
DotCom: Back then, the Big East really put a spotlight on college basketball. What was it like playing then?
A lot of my career was just fortunate timing, it really was. I got to play in the Big East. It was formed in ’77 or ’78, but really it was that TV package with ESPN was their signature basketball package. Thanks to Dave Gavitt, who thought up the Big East Conference … A lot of us benefitted from that. We had some good players and some great coaches of course, but that ESPN TV package fast forwarded to when I got drafted here to the Warriors, kids here knew me. I remember kids telling me, “We used to rush home at 4:30 after school to watch those games.” So when I got out here, it was amazing how many kids were in tune. I didn’t watch West Coast college basketball, I know that, but they were watching those Big East games. It had a huge impact.
DotCom: What were your initial thoughts about being drafted by the Warriors?
“Where is Golden State? Do I really have to leave New York? I got it pretty good right here, you know what I mean? I’m from here, I’m 20 minutes from home, my family and everyone is at the games, the Garden is sold out. I’m good, I’ll just hang right here.” But over time, it almost flip-flopped, but not initially. It was a tough going for me, professionally and personally at first. After some changes in my life, things really worked out and have worked out incredibly well in the Bay Area. My four children have been born here, so this is home. If you would have told me that in 1985, I would have said you were crazy. Once I got my personal life together, my professional career took off. I always felt a real special bond (with the Bay Area fans). When I came out of rehab, I knew in my mind what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t know how it would work out because you’re on a day-to-day deal with yourself and who knows what the future holds? But when I played that first game back and the reception that I received from the fans, it really gave me a good feeling about what I was trying to do. A little validation and some positive reinforcement to go ahead and give it your best shot. People always ask me about big games and things like that and different parts of my career. That’s a small part that meant a lot to me. It really formed a bond between me and the fans that made all the things that happened after that even more sweeter. It didn’t happen right away, it wasn’t smooth-going, they hung with me, I made some changes and to a small degree paid them back and we just kind of formed a pretty cool relationship.
DotCom: Warriors fans saw Chris Mullin mature into the man that he is today. Would you agree?
No question … It didn’t get off to a great start whatsoever. They were willing to see if this was going to happen, and it did, and it happened for us together. I’ll be the first to admit, when they had that first lottery in 1985, I was sitting at my house on Troy Avenue hoping that the Knicks would slide down so I wouldn’t have to leave anywhere. So they got the booby prize. They got the last choice. No. 7 was the worst you can get, and I think they were slated to get No. 1, so that’s a tough start right there. There were unique circumstances, and I think growing together, I always felt a unique relationship with the fans here.
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