As the Ithaca College women’s basketball team begins its preparation for the upcoming season, the program has added a familiar face to its coaching staff. Jim Mullins, longtime men’s basketball head coach, will make his return to the bench this winter, as a volunteer assistant coach on the staff of the women’s team.
Dan Raymond, head coach of the women’s basketball team, presented the idea to Mullins at a staff picnic in the beginning of the summer. Raymond said that once he extended the offer, it was clear that the 23-year Bombers’ head coach was eager to make his return to the sidelines, following his retirement at the end of the 2019–20 season.
“As soon as I mentioned it to him he was all in,” Raymond said. “He was very excited to get re-engaged as a coach, and specifically with our program.”
Mullins echoed a similar sentiment, saying the decision required little consideration due to his desire to get back to coaching.
There really wasn’t much to think about,” Mullins said. “I was pretty excited about the opportunity and I think I probably called him back within two days or something like that. I told him, ‘I’m in.’ So, I’m looking forward to it.”
Raymond and Mullins both expressed that there was uncertainty about the ability to hire an assistant coach, due to budget concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Raymond said he initially asked if the coach would be interested in helping as a volunteer assistant coach because of the experience that he felt Mullins could bring to the table.
“I’ve been around Coach Mullins for over 20 years so I know him very well, and I know how passionate he is about coaching,” Raymond said. “The one thing that I think stands out to me more than anything else with [him] is his knowledge.”
Mullins also noted that it is common for coaches to find their way back on the sidelines in a volunteer assistant role. Currently at the college, former men’s soccer coach, Andy Byrne, has returned as an assistant for the women’s soccer team and former baseball head coach, George Valesente, is assisting his former club.
“This isn’t really anything unique,” Mullins said. “It happens a lot, retirees like to keep their hand in it, however the capacity is … It’s been a huge part of my life for over 40 years. So the opportunity to get back into it, I was really excited about it.”
Mullins’ passion and knowledge for the game translated to an illustrious coaching career with the men’s basketball team, in which he became the program’s winningest coach all-time with a record of 353-264. During his time at the helm, the squad made six trips to the NCAA Tournament and posted five 20-win campaigns. Prior to the team’s decision to join the Liberty League, the Bombers’ success on the court helped Mullins earn Empire 8 Coach of the Year in three seasons.
First-year graduate student and guard Megan Yawman said the team is looking forward to working with Mullins as the season progresses.
“He’s a really experienced coach,” Yawman said. “He’s obviously been successful in his decades of coaching here. So, I think people respect his ‘street cred’ and respect where he’s come from and know that he knows the game well, and he knows how to win and that he’s there in full support of our program.”
In this new role, Mullins will mostly be coaching the team on the defensive side of the ball. Raymond said the team also hired Jordan Beers ’18 as an assistant coach, who will work on the team’s offensive strategy. She also served as a student assistant coach for the women’s team during the 2019–20 season.
“It’s a unique situation that I’ve never really been in, as far as having actually two assistant coaches,” Raymond said. “So through our conversations, we came up with the idea that Jordan would be primarily working with the offense and coach Mullins will primarily be focused on the defense.”
Raymond said that while the capacity of Mullins’ role has not yet been fully determined, the coach is prepared to help the program in any way necessary.
“That’s something that we haven’t worked out all the details,” Raymond said. “But he is willing to be here as much as we need him. And trust me, we need him a lot, so he will be here a lot.”
Mullins began his new position Oct. 17 as the team held its first practice of the season at Ben Light Gymnasium. Yawman said that even though the coach is still becoming acquainted with his new team, he is already contributing to the team’s preseason preparation.
“He wasn’t too vocal today,” Yawman said after the team’s first practice. “Just because I think he’s trying to figure out his role and how he’s going to help out. But he had a lot of good feedback.”
Raymond said he has also been impressed by Mullins early on and believes that his presence on the sidelines will make a positive impact on the group.
“I think his engagement was very positive,” Raymond. “I think the players accepted him very well, and his feedback that he was providing to them. So I see it as a very positive experience for all of us.”