Hurley, Mullin coaching matchup features college basketball legends
When Arizona State takes on St. John’s in Wednesday’s NCAA Tournament First Four, none of the players on the court will garner as much attention as their coaches.
That’s because ASU’s Bobby Hurley and St. John’s Chris Mullin are famous for their own college basketball careers.
Hurley was ranked No. 3 and Mullin No. 1 by ESPN as the best college basketball players of the 68 coaches in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Whichever coach wins Wednesday will pick up their first NCAA Tournament victory as a head coach and see his team move on to Friday’s round of 64 matchup against Buffalo.
“I have the utmost respect for Chris and the job he’s done to get St. John’s to the NCAA Tournament, and who he was as a player,” Hurley said at his Dayton press conference on Tuesday. “(Chris) was a guy I always looked up to when I was growing up in Jersey and he was playing at St. John’s.”
Both coaches’ college basketball playing resumes, which date back more than 20 years, are among the best of all-time.
Hurley starred for Duke from 1989-93, where he won two national titles, went to three Final Fours and became a two-time All-American.
Oh, and he’s the NCAA’s all-time assists leader with 1,076 in his four seasons.
“Bobby, I met personally at the Dream Team, at the workouts when he was playing for the Select Team,” Mullin said on Tuesday. “His brother, Dan, I know as well. So I know their family very well.
“It’s basketball royalty of New Jersey. And they just love the game of basketball. They teach it. They’re very intense and the whole family is involved and I’ve known them for a long time.”
Hurley and Mullin met in 1992 in San Diego when Hurley scrimmaged against Mullin and the “Dream Team,” which was the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team.
Hurley, 47, said it was “the best week of his life” and the opportunity to play against a point guard like Mullin helped make that possible.
“He was one of those guys that always overachieved, played hard as nails and did whatever it took to win, made his teammates better,” Mullin said of Hurley.
Mullin, 55, took St. John’s to the 1985 Final Four.
That, combined with Mullin being the only player in Big East history to win three consecutive conference player of the year awards, helped him earn a spot in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Both coaches have been at their respective schools since 2015.
“I was a point guard and I would see those guys go at each other, or Georgetown and St. John’s and all these great matchups,” Hurley said. “And I remember all the Final Fours, all those Big East teams going, and Villanova beating Georgetown. And just so many great memories of watching the Big East and watching St. John’s and Chris Mullin.”