The year that spawned "We Are The World", New Coke, and Bowling for Soup's best song.
1985 also saw three Big East teams reach the Final Four, and gave the Villanova Wildcats their first National Championship in school history. The two other Big East Final Four representatives, Georgetown and St. John's, also made history. Hoyas center Patrick Ewing and Red Storm guard/forward Chris Mullin became the first two NBA Draft Lottery picks in conference history. They also both played for the Dream Team in 1992, in case the above image didn't make that clear.
If you're dialed into basketball lore, you know that the 1985 Draft Lottery is one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history. Following the Houston Rockets (and other teams) apparently "tanking" in 1984 to land Hakeem Olajuwon and others, the NBA made a change. The new system was to put the seven worst teams' logos in envelopes in a big hopper, and each team had an equal chance at the top pick. Here's where the conspiracy comes into play: The New York Knicks were one of the teams in the Lottery, and Ewing was a can't-miss bona-fide star coming out of a national powerhouse in Georgetown. Theorists say NBA Commissioner David Stern froze the Knicks' envelope so he would know which one to pick first.
Whatever the case, the Knicks ended up with the first pick. They took Ewing and the rest is history.
What was it that made Ewing the top pick and how did his NBA career pan out? Let's take a look.
In a way, it's fitting that we start a series about Big East history with Ewing. When you talk about the conference, Ewing is often the conversation's commencement point, and for good reason.
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Ewing didn't learn basketball until he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of 12.
As his college recruiting was in full swing, Ewing was strongly considering North Carolina. In 2013, he told Dan Patrick why he ultimately didn't attend UNC:
"I went down there they put me in that Carolina Inn and there was a big Ku Klux Klan rally at North Carolina when I was there. And I'm like, 'You know what? I'm not coming down here. I'm staying my butt back in Boston.'"
Ultimately, as you know, Ewing chose Georgetown. He made an impact almost immediately, as he was the first player to ever wear a T-shirt under his jersey. In addition to his fashion impact, his on-court impact was nearly instant also. Ewing's freshman season saw him block...almost every shot that went up. This was literally the case in the 1982 National Championship against North Carolina, as Ewing was called for goaltending five times in the first half of the game. Georgetown would eventually lose that game, but the Hoyas showed they were to be a permanent fixture in the national landscape for as long as Ewing was anchoring them down low.
The Hoyas took a step back in 1982-83, losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but 1983-84 was their time to shine. Led by Ewing, the Co-Big East Player of the Year (along with Chris Mullin, more on him shortly), Georgetown captured their first (and only, to date) National Championship.
In 1984-85, Ewing was, somehow, even better. He split the Big East Player of the Year award with Mullin again, in addition to Naismith Player of the Year as Georgetown looked poised to repeat. They fell in the National Title Game to Big East foe Villanova, however.
Regardless of the result of that game, Ewing had solidified himself as the best player in the nation, and the top pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. The Knicks selected Ewing, and he became the team's second ever Rookie of the Year (joining Willis Reed).
Over the next 15 years, Ewing would go on to be a defensive force for the Knicks just as he was for the Hoyas. He was an 11-time NBA All-Star, and made the All-NBA Second Team six times. He's also the Knicks' all-time leading scorer. Most people remember Ewing's Knicks for their annual playoff disappointments, but that's not a fair legacy for the big man.
Following his time with the Knicks, Ewing made stops in Seattle and Orlando before retiring in 2002.
Immediately after retirement, Ewing took an assistant coaching position with the Washington Wizards. Since then, he's also been an assistant for the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, and (currently) the Charlotte Hornets. Ewing was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
People in NBA circles feel it's just a matter of time before Ewing gets a head coaching job. Speaking of players who have head coaching jobs...
Long before he was St. John's Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin, he was St. John's Red Storm superstar Chris Mullin.
Whereas Ewing departed his hometown of Boston to head to college, Mullin, a native of Brooklyn, stayed home to attend St. John's. Mullin immediately forged a bond with Red Storm head coach Lou Carnesecca, which is still prevalent today, as Mullin noted in July 2015:
“Coach Carnesecca has influenced my life in so many ways. I’ve been thinking about coaching for a few years and I just felt that this is the place I could really have an impact, obviously with the basketball program, but also with young adults by giving them the foundation to better their lives. The lessons Coach Carnesecca taught me I use to this day. Every day when I am working these guys out, something comes out of my mouth or a thought comes to my head that I remember from Coach Carnesecca.”
Mullin, like Ewing, made an instant impact. His 16.6 PPG in his freshman season was a St. John's freshman record at the time. Mullin and Carnesecca had a tremendous amount of success together, as the Red Storm made the NCAA Tournament each season Mullin was there. Mullin was a three-time Big East Player of the Year (He split with Patrick Ewing twice), which remains a record. Mullin's 2,440 career points is also a St. John's record. Additionally, Mullin was named the 1985 Wooden Player of the year following St. John's second Final Four appearance in school history.
Mullin was the final lottery pick in the 1985 NBA Draft, taken seventh by the Golden State Warriors. Mullin's first couple years in Golden State were marred by change and personal demons.
In 1988, Mullin finally broke through. He was named an NBA All-Star for the first of five times en route to a career high 26.5 PPG. Then, everything changed again for Mullin, this time for the better.
Enter Run TMC.
By 1989, Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway had all found a home in Golden State. Under head coach Don Nelson they played a flashy and uptempo offense, and for the next two seasons, Golden State was on top of the world. While the trio never grabbed the brass ring of a championship, they excited basketball fans everywhere. In their two seasons together, the three players had 48 separate games in which they each reached 20 points.
Prior to the 1991-92 season, Richmond was traded to Sacramento and the days of Run TMC were over. Mullin continued to play well for the next couple seasons, never averaging fewer than 25 PPG from 1988-93, but 1994-97 saw Mullin miss significant times with a number of injuries.
In the summer of 1997, Mullin was traded to the Indiana Pacers. Mullin spent three seasons in Indiana before finishing his career in Golden State in 2000-01.
Following his playing career, Mullin transitioned to the front office, working with the Warriors and Kings most of the previous two decades, and was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Then, in March of 2015, everything changed again.
In a move that seemed, at the time, as a huge surprise, St. John's named Mullin head coach on March 30, 2015. Mullin had no coaching experience at the college or professional level before being named to the position.
Mullin's first season at the helm was rough. The Red Storm went 8-24 and just 1-17 in Big East play. However, Mullin took over a team with a lot of departing players and freshmen, so he made the best of what he had.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, St. John's looked to be in much better shape than last season, a testament to Mullin and his staff. While it's too early to deem his head coaching tenure a failure or a success, Mullin's definitely on the right track.