Ithaca’s Mullins announces retirement; Burton named Head Coach

Long-time Ithaca College men’s basketball head coach Jim Mullins has announced that he will retire after 23 seasons at the helm of the program, effective in June. Mullins, the program’s all-time winningest coach with 353 victories has been a member of the Ithaca staff since 1992.
“I want to thank and congratulate Coach Mullins for his commitment to Ithaca College, our Athletics Department and Bomber basketball,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Susan Bassett ’79. “He is a quintessential professional, excellent colleague, teacher and strong leader for generations of IC basketball players. I appreciate his team first approach whether in our department or in the culture of our men’s basketball program. I am delighted that Coach Mullins could finish his coaching career with the magical run our team experienced this year.”

Mullins served as an assistant coach for five seasons before assuming the role of head coach for the 1997-98 campaign. He played a large role in Ithaca’s success during his time as an assistant coach. In his five seasons, the Bombers posted an 86-46 record and earned one NCAA playoff and three ECAC postseason invitations. Ithaca put together back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 1992-93 and 1993-94, his first two seasons on the varsity staff.

” My 28 years here at IC have been the happiest of my career,” Mullins stated. “I’ve always believed that any organization is only as good as the people in it and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by great people. First, my five assistant coaches: Sherry Dobbs, Gregg Hepler, Nevada Smith, Jon Tanous, and most recently Sean Burton. These guys have been the program’s life blood. Next, the players – far too many to name – they know who they are, the sons that I never had. It’s been my privilege to have coached them. Third, my fellow coaches, who made coming to work every day a pleasure. Lastly, our administrators, both present and past whose hard work and dedication to IC is the foundation for Bomber Athletics. A lot of people, but if I may borrow a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson:  ‘I am a part of all that I have met.'”

Since leading the Bombers, Mullins guided Ithaca to the NCAA playoffs six times, including five trips in the past 11 seasons, and a run to the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time in program history (2012-13). The 2019-20 program reached the second round after earning the program’s first Liberty League title and matched a program record with 24 victories, tying the 2008-09 team. In 23 seasons, Ithaca eclipsed 20 or more wins five different times.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside Coach Mullins over the past five years,” said Associate Director of Athletics, Will Rothermel. “I have truly appreciated his steady approach and workmanlike commitment to Ithaca College and the men’s basketball program. I am happy for Jim to begin this new chapter in his life and have great appreciation for the legacy he has left as a Bomber!”

On January 12, 2018, Mullins became the program’s all-time winningest coach with an 82-67 victory over St. Lawrence inside Ben Light Gymnasium to give him 308 career wins.

Mullins was a three-time Empire 8 Coach of the Year, taking the honor in 2002, 2008 and 2009. He also took home the East Region Coach of the Year award in 2002. Mullins has mentored four E8 Players of the Year, including Pat Britton (2000), Sean Burton (2008 & 2009) and Phil Barera (2011). Peter Ezema (2018-19) was named the Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year as well. Mullins guided the Bombers to four conference championships during his tenure – three in the Empire 8 and one in the Liberty League. Ithaca also won three ECAC championships under his tutelage.

He also spent three years as an assistant softball coach (1996-97, 2002), helping the Bombers to three NCAA playoff appearances, including two trips to the College World Series and the 2002 NCAA title.

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Susan Bassett ’79, announced the promotion of current assistant coach Sean Burton ’09  to be head coach, effective July 1, 2020. Burton, a two-time All-American and Ithaca Hall of Fame member, had one of the most decorated careers on South Hill. 

“I am pleased to announce Sean Burton‘s promotion to head men’s basketball coach.  After Coach Mullins, Sean Burton, is tied directly to the program’s most successful seasons, as a player and in particular during this break-through year as assistant coach during the team’s Liberty League Championship win and NCAA Tournament appearance.  He has proven his recruiting effectiveness and coaching acumen. I am absolutely confident in his ability to continue the program’s recent trajectory and build on our success.”

A captain for the Bombers during his career, which spanned from 2005-09, Burton finished third all-time in scoring with 1,736 career points, third in scoring average (17.0), second in assists (556) and assists per game (5.5), third in made 3-pointers (261) and fifth in career steals with 163.

“I would like to thank Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports Susan Bassett for this tremendous opportunity,” expressed Burton. “I’d also like to thank Coach Mullins for his support in this transition and for being a great mentor during my playing days for him and, most recently, as a coach with him for five years. The program is in a great place right now with the quality student-athletes we have and we will continue to strive for excellence in everything we do.”

After graduating from Ithaca in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in sports and exercise Science, Burton played professionally in the Iceland Express Basketball League where he would go on to earn a two All-Star selections and a league championship in 2010.

“I am excited for the Sean Burton-era of Ithaca College men’s basketball,” said Rothermel. “Having arrived at IC around the same time Coach Burton returned as an assistant, I have witnessed his tremendous growth during this time and feel we are very fortunate to have him take the reins.  He is a proven winner and I am eager for the future of Bombers basketball under his leadership.”

Burton served as assistant coach at Babson College before returning to Ithaca in 2015. He helped guide the Beavers to their best record in program history in 2014 after posting a 29-3 overall mark along with a NEWMAC title and a trip to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Semifinals.

Burton’s recruiting prowess played an instrumental role in Babson’s success during his tenure as the Yorkville, N.Y. native helped sign several student-athletes, one of whom would go on to be named All-American.

Prior to his time in Wellesley, Mass., Burton was part of the coaching staff at Utica College, where he was instrumental in the recruitment of Aaron Nevins who would go on to be named Rookie of the Year by both the Empire 8 and

Burton will take over a program that returns all but three players from this past winter, including rising junior Skylar Sinon, who led the Liberty League in assists and steals, and was third in scoring behind departing seniors Sebastian Alderete and Riley Thompson.

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