On this Good Friday, St. John’s announced former Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson as the 21st head coach of the men’s basketball team in a mid-afternoon presser. Confirmed as the hire yesterday, Anderson replaces Chris Mullin, who stepped down early last week.
Anderson, with his wife seated in the front row and some of the current St. John’s players in the back, was introduced by Athletic Director Mike Cragg and St. John’s President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw.
After the lead in from the President and the Athletic Director, Anderson talked, clearly new to New York, having first discussed the position two days ago. (He even called the now-Brooklyn Nets the “New Jersey Nets”.)
Anderson brought an excitement with him, talking on a range of topics while seated in front of the press:
- He spoke of winning a championship as a player and vision to win a championship here in New York.
- Anderson commended Chris Mullin and what he did for the program.
- He talked about the progress of building the program and recruiting in a first-class manner. He pointed out that he likes to be able to speak to his players about more than basketball, building lifelong relationships on and off the court.
- He said he is known for two things: “relationships and communication”.
- Anderson seemed excited about the talent on the roster, noting a few times that last year’s team won 21 games.
- As far as the team on the court, he told fans that the team will be entertaining, will score, will defend, and play fast. “You gonna see St. John’s basketball phew [ed. note: think of the sound effect of the Warner Bros. Roadrunner] — fast. Y’all like to play fast? Let’s get it on.”
At one point during the press conference, Mike Anderson invited players Eli Wright, LJ Figueroa, and Mustapha Heron to the dais.
Anderson has not had a team meeting yet, but he did reach out to a few players. (According to Mustapha Heron, he called “early”, and Figueroa may not have been awake yet.) Anderson didn’t comment about players returning, but said they are here because they care — indicating that they are leaning towards staying and building with the new coach.
The Rumble spoke to Eli Wright after the press conference about his first thoughts Anderson’s hire.
Wright said, “my first thought was, knowing that he is from the SEC, it just brought back memories from how physical and competitive it was over there. So it just gave me a good feeling.”
With all the change going on in the program, Eli didn’t consider leaving to go pro or transferring; he has already sat out a season in anticipation of playing for St. John’s. “I feel like I’m stable, I’m good where I’m at right now,” Wright said. “I’m just going to see how this situation works out for me.”
Anderson hasn’t talked with anyone yet about filling out his staff. He said that he will look into bringing guys in on his former staff and talking with the remainder of Chris Mullin’s staff.
The likelihood is that he will dip into his past for people like Melvin Watkins and TJ Cleveland, both who were with him at Arkansas and know his style and the kind of players he recruits.
Chris Huey, St. John’s Director of Basketball Operations, was in attendance for the press conference. He is unsure of his status going forward with the program, but would like to stay with the new regime.
Anderson, 59, holds a career (369-200) career record, and has never had a losing season in 17 years.