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Former assistant Steve DeMeo files lawsuit against St. John’s, Anderson

DeMeo says he was wrongfully terminated, details conflict between the coach and players

Wendell Cruz

Today, St. John’s and the Big East may have released the schedule... but fans of the Johnnies are also hearing about a lawsuit filed by a former assistant coach against head coach Mike Anderson.

Former St. John’s Assistant Coach Steve DeMeo has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against St. John’s University as well as Red Storm head basketball coach Mike Anderson. DeMeo alleges wrongful termination due to an ongoing heart condition. He also outlines personnel chaos within the Red Storm basketball program perpetrated by head coach Mike Anderson.

According to the complaint filed by Wigdor LLP and obtained by Sports Illustrated, DeMeo alleges accommodations around his heart condition was the reasoning behind his abrupt termination at St. John’s.

A testy performance review meeting occurred in May, and DeMeo was terminated from St. John’s shortly after in June.

It is up to the court system to determine whether DeMeo’s termination was unwarranted. Coaches change jobs and fire assistants all the time to shake up their program, and DeMeo has found a new position at East Carolina with his old acquaintance Joe Dooley, so the question about long-term harm will be debated.

But beyond DeMeo’s termination, the filing gives DeMeo’s view of a chaotic culture within St. John’s basketball program.

The lawsuit outlines conflict between Andferson and the team, specifically with Isaih Moore, the forward who transferred to Southern Mississippi this offseason. The 6’10” forward was strong near the basket, but clashed with the head coach enough to be suspended for disciplinary reasons for two games.

The Sports Illustrated piece details a pair of instances in March where Anderson attempted to discipline Moore by kicking him off the team and the team backed up their teammate. Per the lawsuit, Anderson did not form a strong enough bond with Moore, causing problems for the team that helped culminate in the large number of transfers at the end of the year — including Moore’s friend Vince Cole, three veterans that came to St. John’s under Chris Mullin, a starting guard, and a point guard who did not see much time under Anderson.

Furthermore, the lawsuit states that St. John’s declining to play in the NIT was more closely related to players unwilling to play for Anderson, as opposed to COVID-19 protocols, as the team publicly stated.

It is currently unclear what the consequences of this lawsuit will be for St. John’s and the men’s basketball team. It may be a blip that will be forgotten when the games start (as often happens with scandals more wide-ranging or more salacious), or it may be nagging footnote if the team struggles.

Expectations are high in the media with an all-Big East player in Julian Champagnie, a top rising sophomore in Posh Alexander, and a number of well-regarded transfers who will need to come together to fill the talent lost in the offseason.