Chris Mullin embraces role as Warriors TV analyst
SAN FRANCISCO - Decked out in a snazzy gray suit and rocking his trademark buzz cut, Chris Mullin is ready for his closeup.
He and Garry St. Jean are perched under the bright lights of the NBC Sports Bay Area studio - atop a gleaming set designed to resemble the key on a basketball court.
The lesson is about to begin.
“Let’s have a little fun here,” says the relentlessly cheery St. Jean as he grabs a ball and motions for Mullin to “guard” him while demonstrating how to defend a lethal 3-point shooter.
They’re taping a segment for the “Warriors Pregame Live” show airing before Golden State faces the Portland Trail Blazers at Chase Center in early November. And Mullin, who still looks fit enough to log some quality NBA minutes, is all in.
“It’s important to have active hands as you close out on the shooter,” he says, raising his arms and peering into the camera. “ ... It’s all about great effort and great communication ... (and) keeping guys out of the paint.”
Mullin, the former Golden State great, Hall-of-Famer, Dream Team Olympian and one-third of the beloved Run-TMC trio, is back in the Bay Area and dropping knowledge for grateful Warriors devotees who haven’t had a whole lot to cheer about this season.
And it has been a blast.
“I’m having a great time,” said Mullin, who, after the taping, joined St. Jean and host Greg Papa for the live pregame show out in front of Chase Center. “There’s good energy from the fans. The arena is spectacular - the best I’ve seen. ... I couldn’t ask for a better gig right now.”
It helps that he knows how to handle himself around a microphone and camera. Mullin’s on-air performances so far have been as silky smooth as his fabled jump shot. And it should come as no surprise that he instantly meshed with Papa and St. Jean, two pals he has known for years.
“He’s a natural on television,” Papa said. “And the beautiful thing is that the three of us are just so comfortable around each other. It’s so seamless. He’s been fabulous - the rookie of the year!”
Devon Fox heartily agrees. As the senior director of live events and special projects for NBCSBA (and California), she recruited Mullin to the post.
“He brings so much knowledge to the telecasts,” she said. “And he’s so passionate - almost to a fault. We may have to have him chill out a bit while he’s watching the games.”
Meanwhile, more fun is on the way. NBCSBA has arranged for Mullin to reunite with his Run-TMC mates, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond, during four pregame appearances that should have fans outside Chase Center buzzing. The first one is scheduled for the Dec. 11 game against the New York Knicks.
That Mullin is even part of the NBCSBA telecasts is the result of some good timing and good fortune. In April, he stepped down as head coach at his alma-mater, St. John’s University - a job he held for four seasons. That left him available to fill in for a vacationing St. Jean on a few postseason games as the Warriors made their run to a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance.
And then, when NBCBA decided during the summer to replace Jim Barnett with Kelenna Azubuike as an in-game analyst, the job on the Warriors’ ?pre- and postgame panel came open. Mullin, who had clicked so well during his postseason stints, was the obvious choice.
But it didn’t happen right away. Fox spent much of the summer playing tug of war with Mullin’s agent, trying to settle on just how many games he could commit to and the appropriate salary for a Hall-of-Fame talent with some previous ESPN experience.
As the start of the season drew very near, a deal still wasn’t in place. Fox resigned herself to going forward without him.
“I was stewing because I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never not gotten who I wanted,” she said. “I felt so defeated.”
But just minutes after waving the white flag, Fox received an email from Mullin’s agent: “He’ll do it.”
“We were ecstatic,” said Fox, pointing out that Mullin is the first Basketball Hall of Fame analyst NBCSBA has had on any of its sports telecasts.
Mullin, who works only home games, shares the job with ?fellow new NBCSBA analysts Brian Shaw and Jennifer Azzi. When doing the TV gig, he ?commutes across the bridge from Alamo with St. Jean, who playfully refers to his sidekick as “Uber Mully.”
Of course, when Mullin took the job, the Warriors were still being talked about as a potential playoff team, even in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure. But injuries to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and others have left the team with a roster full of young, inexperienced players who are taking their lumps. Has that soured Mullin on the season in any way?