St. John’s is reportedly on the verge of hiring former Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson to the vacant spot at St. John’s.
Anderson, 59, was let go from Arkansas, where winning 55% of his games and not making it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament were deal-breakers.
But... St. John’s?
St. John’s has wanted regional or city ties for years, running with the idea heard often from local high school level hoops coaches — that someone needs to know the city, know its gyms, know its politics, to be successful. (Chicago basketball jobs come with the same refrain.)
National pundits and local pundits are remarking that the fit seems strange, with Anderson’s coaching career being at Tulsa, Alabama-Birmingham, Missouri, and Arkansas.
There is a point to be made there; while recruiting is national for many teams, Anderson drew heavily from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas with a smattering of Louisiana, Alabama and Indiana — some top-50 talents, some JUCO, some less-heralded high school players.
Anderson and his assistant Melvin Watkins kept the talent base local.
Was the reason to play on a level of loyalty to Arkansas and Mizzou? Was it because they did not have great contacts outside a certain radius to reach out to for players?
(Anderson, at Missouri, did have Zaire Taylor from Staten Island and Keon Lawrence from New Jersey, who transferred to Seton Hall.)
Will Anderson reach back into the south for players to come to St. John’s, selling them on the bright lights and Big East?
After all, current Johnnies Greg Williams Jr. (Louisiana) and Josh Roberts (Alabama) seem to like being up in the area. Marquette had success under Buzz Williams with a number of Texans.
Or will Mike Anderson cast a national (or even international) net, specifying a certain kind of run and jump player who can play his style, grow under him as a person, and become a star?
Or will Anderson, after hiring a local recruiter and a national recruiter, keep his search local, convincing recruits to stay home?
St. John’s would welcome that, a nod to the old school culture that saw many great city players stay to play for the Redmen/ Red Storm.
Those New York players have left for college for a long time, and now even leave to finish high school in other places, as Precious Achiuwa and Lester Quinones did.
Chris Mullin was able to use transfers. Steve Lavin made the search national. Norm Roberts was very local.
The summer recruiting sessions will start to tell the tale.
And if the only issue St. John’s has is that there are too many players from the south, but Anderson can get his run and gun style overwhelming other teams, the Red Storm fans will be joyous.