"Where's Golden State?" Liz said for everybody in the room.
"Oakland," said Mullin glumly.
"Where's Oakland?" Liz asked.
Not only was it 3,000 miles from Flatbush, but it was also a million miles from Uncle Loooooie Carnesecca and ugly sweaters and happiness. Mullin would try to shoot after Warrior practices, and the veterans would look at him as if he had just hurled in their gym bags. "Hey, man, are you crazy?" one told him. "You're making us look bad."
He got lonely. He would call Liz longdistance, and they would talk and watch ESPN for hours, trying to fabricate a little togetherness. All that was left of that good feeling from home came in 12-ounce cans. So what? Drinking was fun at Mullin's house. Liquor was a side dish for everything. An Irish Catholic family in Brooklyn? Gedouddaheah. Mullin and his brothers would drink beer while playing softball on Sundays until 5 p.m., then go straight to church. Mullin's life was, Hoist a few J's, then hoist a few B's. But in Oakland the family was gone and the joy was gone and Liz was gone.
"You'd go over to his house," says a friend, "and you could see the beer cans piling up." Mullin still tried to work out hard, but his body wasn't coping. During one workout with Grabow, he threw up. Mullin would tell people he would be over at seven and then show up at nine. He blew things off more often than he made them. "I don't think he was a very happy person then," says his friend Brad Gilbert, the tennis pro.
By his second summer back home from the West Coast, Mullin had stopped drinking to escape. He drank out of need. "I remember I'd get all excited about him coming home for the summer," says Liz. "But then it wouldn't turn out like I wanted." She would stay up all night worrying because he hadn't called. She would go to work the next day without sleep. When she would see him that night, they would fight. "I lost that trust," she says.
By his third pro season he was the loneliest he had ever been. "It got to the point where I'd come home at night and I wasn't worried about what I had to do the next day," Mullin says. "I didn't have a schedule for the next day, and I didn't care." He woke up plenty of mornings with headaches and with a mess to clean up in the bathroom. "To tell you the truth," he says, "there were days when I didn't care if I played again."
Chris Mullin is an alcoholic with a bouncer's face. His eyes are a beautiful blue-gray, but they are so dominated by his great bushy eyebrows that they look like mere slits, quarter slots. Mullin actually has more hair in his eyebrows than on the top of his head, where the oppressed follicles are mown into the world's shortest flattop. If you tipped him upside down, he would remind you of a giant barbecue grill cleaner.