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What is St. John’s looking for in a successful coach?

A look at some of the issues that have tripped up other St. John’s coaches, and how Mike Anderson compares.

Big 12 Championship: Baylor v Missouri Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s been 10 days, a tumultuous 10 days, since Chris Mullin officially stepped down from the head coaching position. (His statement called it “stepping down”, others characterize it as being forced out.)

With the reported hire of Mike Anderson, St. John’s hopes for a coach who can fulfill the goals of —

Do we know what the goals for a coach at St. John’s are? Do we know what the desired path is to the aspirations of “win a lot of games and make money?”

What St. John’s looks for in a coach is hard to parse, especially when looking at the surface of a program that looks to have chewed up and spat out coaches for the past 25+ years for various reasons. What is clear is that it’s more than just pure coaching.

St. John’s has not been able to sustain winning, with Mike Jarvis having a winning record over .600, with Fran Fraschilla & Steve Lavin having winning records, and Norm Roberts, Brian Mahoney and Chris Mullin all coming in under that 50% winning threshold.

There are always issues going on beneath the surface that have caused the school to think that there are better options out in the coaching universe.

Some of those ideas are justified, some seem capricious. Both levels define the culture that the decision makers seem to want, and helps define what the goals of the program administration seem to have been.

How does Mike Anderson stack up to the needs of the program?

  • Don’t be a tabloid program. Mike Jarvis and Steve Lavin both found themselves managing embarrassing “character” moments during their tenures, involving the wacky weed, suspensions, cash beyond what the NCAA allows. For Jarvis, it was compounded by mediocre play & a JUCO who assaulted his girlfriend. Lavin’s teams were too close to the Westchester CC transcript scandal (& two on-court incidents couldn’t help).

Comparison || Mike Anderson had a pair of players suspended at Arkansas in 2014. Back in 2008, Anderson suspended some players for an altercation, one of a number of players who ran afoul of team rules or the law in his second season taking over for Quin Snyder at Mizzou.

  • Be connected to New York. AAU/ local coaches often complain that the St. John’s coaches don’t interact with them enough. What this entails, of course, is murky. It could be that St. john’s coaches have been too arrogant to come to their schools. It could be that the local schools no longer hold Big East level talent, and the coaches are better served checking out prep schools in New England. It could be that the local coaches want levels of attention that cannot be given. (Insight into this from those in the know is helpful in the comments).

Comparison || Reportedly, Anderson will be looking at Andy Borman, who is connected to AD Mike Cragg and was suggested to come on as an assistant for Chris Mullin before Mullin stepped down.

  • Wants to be here. Fealty to the school seems to be a factor. Dalliances with others soured the administration on Fraschilla and Jarvis, while Roberts and Mullin’s attachments to area and school was a strong selling point.

Comparison || Mike Anderson lacks ties to the area, but with his long history as a head coach, it’s hard to imagine him taking a peek at the Washington Wizards or a far away program. Anderson has appeared to be very loyal to his coaching positions.

  • Get to the NCAA Tournament early (and often?). Is it possible for a St. John’s coach to last without an NCAA Tournament berth? Norm Roberts did, in a Big East that was as tough as the current ACC. But the years wore thin, and he was fired. On the other hand, both Lavin and Mullin reached the tournament... and were fired shortly after.

Comparison || Anderson, given his experience, will be expected to reach the NCAA Tournament. He’ll need some talent, but he has been excellent at getting players to execute what he wants to do.

Let’s add a few other characteristics, based on issues that have befallen former coaches.

  • Never get caught not working hard. The stories that dogged Chris Mullin’s recruiting efforts (supposedly not meeting with critical recruits like Femi Olujobi and Sidney Wilson, reportedly not being in contact with Cam Mack per Mack’s family) were hard to reconcile with successful player recruitment. Those stories mirrored things said about Steve Lavin while pursing a top target in that target’s senior summer.

Question || Will Mike Anderson and his staff be involved with lots of recruits of interest? Will he go on vacations during the recruiting season? Will they plan long-term and identify good players early? Will they unearth lesser-known talents in an active media market where good players rarely go unnoticed?

  • Be able to recruit, or at least tell a good story about recruiting. Fans want to see future stars come to St. John’s. That recruiting style has led to high-profile misses, which are fine, and the chase for marginal players who are known to have physical talent. Few Big East teams can simply reel in a bunch of high four-star players... and that’s not going to secure a coach’s job, wither, when those players leave early (see: Shaka Smart at Texas, Avery Johnson at Alabama). Teams need to get old and experienced, along with being talented.

Question || Will Anderson find the kind of players who fit his system quickly? Can get his staff on the same page with what he needs? Will the players he need come to St. John’s? Will the recruiting be consistent?

What keys do you have for Mike Anderson to be successful?