NEW YORK — Chris Mullin was part of St. John's glory days in the 1980s, the leader of its 1985 Final Four team, the program's all-time leading scorer and the only player in Big East history to win three consecutive player of the year awards.
Now, entering his fourth season at his alma mater, Mullin has a chance to maybe not get the Red Storm back to the Final Four, but with three returning starters and some talented newcomers, they could very well contend for the conference's regular-season title.
"It's actually pretty nice," Mullin said Thursday at Madison Square Garden on Big East media day. "It seems like every game the last few years we'd be picked to lose. But looking at expectations, we have our own, and that's to win instead of getting bounced around.
"That takes time. Someone who would sort of underestimate what it takes to be good and to be a winner would be someone who hadn't done it. You have to respect the process, be willing to go through losing, handle it, not bail out, and put yourself in a position to go out and win."
The Red Storm went 16-17 last season, their best record under Mullin. They lost their first 11 conference games and finished 4-14, but one of their wins was an upset of Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center.
"There is a unique pressure in New York," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "I think if you didn't admit that, you wouldn't be truthful. I think no one's more equipped to handle this than Chris. He's a Hall of Famer, he played here, he's from New York.
"So I think it's pretty cool for our league. I want them to be really successful, just not better than us."
Junior guard Shamorie Ponds, who led the league in scoring last season with a 21.6-point average, was voted preseason player of the year by league coaches. He said he and his teammates don't feel pressure.
"We're just ready to get the season rolling," Ponds said. "We're preparing every day. I feel like with this group of guys we've got, we can go very far. So we're just trying to string it all together."
Former Georgetown star Patrick Ewing was not a crowd favorite at the Garden when he went up against Mullin and St. John's, but he became a beloved figure there during a 15-year career with the New York Knicks.
In his first visit here last season as Georgetown's head coach, however, he encountered a conflicted fan.
"It was like the old, old days," he said. "It's funny because I played 15 years here and with all the fans they hated me when I played at Georgetown. They loved me when I played for 15 years here [with the Knicks].
"I heard one guy last year say, 'You're from Georgetown but I can't hate you.' And I told him, 'How about giving me some love then?'"