Chris (Mo) Mullin is just a guy from da naybuhhood. Da same as Joey and Mikey and Mo's big bruddah, Roddy, and all dose udder guys who talk like Vinnie Barbarino. Like, it's ridikilus how heavy-duty a naybuhhood guy Mullin is, and guys bust his chops about it all da time, but to tell da troot, it explains a lotta tings.
At 17 Mullin made a controversial decision to transfer from Power Memorial Academy in Manhattan to Xaverian High in Brooklyn, in part because he wanted to get back wit da guys from da naybuhhood. He chose St. John's University over the leafy groves of Duke and Virginia and, forgive him, Father, Notre Dame, because St. John's was a naybuhhood type of place. Like, da joint wasn't even in da naybuhhood; it was in Queens.
Mullin goes to Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas in da naybuhhood and drinks his beers at da Cuckoo's Nest in da naybuhhood. (But only in the off-season, right, Mo?) And before he goes to bed each night Mullin watches The Honey-mooners on TV, which is about some more heavy-duty naybuhhood guys. Bang-zoom! Right to da moon, Alice. Why, just last summer, after he had helped America win the gold medal in basketball at the Olympics, Mullin skipped out on breakfast with the President of the United States because he had to get back to da naybuhhood. Mullin didn't know it, but there was a block party waiting on his arrival home, and more than 500 people would show up from da naybuhhood. "I was lookin' forward to meet da President but he was, like, real late and I hadda plane to catch," Mullin says. "I hadda get back to Bruk-lun."
The apple never falls far from the tree. Singapore. Hong Kong. San Juan. Los Angeles. Queens. No matter how far Mullin strays from his native habitat, he yet remains da naybuhhood's everyguy. The kid from Troy Avenue in Flatlands. Friggin' Brooklyn, New York, U.S. of A.
As if Mullin would be allowed to be anything else inside the small row house his family has called chaos for 24 years, or almost four full basketball seasons before he was born. Around home Mullin is hardly more revered than Doc, the pet rabbit, or his older sister, Kathy, the nurse, and maybe even less so than Aunt Kathryn, the nun. If he comes in early at night, Mullin just grabs one of the beds in the room he shares with his three brothers, Roddy, John and Terence. "If Mo ever acted like a star in dat family," says Mike O'Reilly, a naybuhhood guy who grew up with Mullin and now plays for George Washington, "dey trow his clothes out da window, dat's it."
Speaking of which, after Mullin recently posed as a fashion plate for Playboy—decked out in a ribbed wool, shawl-collared cardigan by Merona Sport, crew-neck by Lord Jeff, plaid button-down from Gant's Big and Tall, and wool-blend pleated trousers by, ahem, Pierre Cardin—his buddy, Paul O'Donohue, practically vomited. The co-owner of JPOD's, the college tavern across the street from St. John's where Mullin drinks some more of his beers (but only in the off-season, right, Mo?), O'Donohue quickly recovered to accuse Mullin of selling out. "Mo looked like some disco wimp king," O'Donohue says. "I busted his chops."
Even if he could have kept the designer trash, Mullin wouldn't have. Too splashy, bright, colorful. "They had to slit the legs to make the pants fit," Mullin says. His personal taste veers more toward jeans and T shirts, beiges and blands and monotony, raiment mirroring Mullin's conversation, personality—"Mo is too, too normal," complains O'Donohue—and the way he plays basketball, as well. In an age when everybody's game is a triple-deluxe burger with the works, Mullin's is bacon, lettuce and tomato—and hold the mayo. But, oh my, what a divine BLT. Mullin plays the swingman position as if it had been invented for him. "Mo captures the imagination without dunking," says St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca.
Well, at 6'6" Mullin can dunk. In the words of teammate Ron Stewart, he used to "squeak" it in there, but hours of serious pumping and lifting on the Nautilus teeter-totters have strengthened Mullin's puffy popcorn torso and now he can make a subtle advance in elevation and throw some down—at least in practice.
Honestly, though, Mullin is a glorious throwback to the old days before hang time, when Caucasians got by on guile and guts and something known as ball handling. In the meantime, is it any wonder friend and foe alike—though it's difficult to find the latter, even in the raw and raging Big East Conference—proclaim Mullin a living, breathing coach's clinic just waiting for the whistle to blow. Carmine Calzonetti, a former St. John's player and assistant coach, calls Mullin " America's Player."
Mullin has worked and worked. And then worked some more. His ICBM (Irish Catholic Basketball Mind) and work ethic are such that he can hardly stop working. "The competition is too tough," he says.