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St. John’s coaching change: Mike Anderson let go

The Red Storm act early and announce the coaching change; Rick Pitino has been on the lips of the media.

Nick Bello

St. John’s has let Mike Anderson go.

(Or “fired”, if you want the more action-laden version.)

“After fully evaluating the men’s basketball program, our University has decided a change is needed in both the leadership and direction of St. John’s basketball,” said Mike Cragg. “We wish Coach mike Anderson and his family the best in their future.”

Anderson was 68-56 in four years in Queens, and 30-46 in Big East play with zero NCAA Tournament appearances, and zero NIT appearances.

Unlike after the last four year stint, St. John’s has made a decisive break, following weeks of rumors that Mike Anderson would not be back for a fifth year as the head coach. In comparison, 2019 saw: St. John’s agree to have Chris Mullin step away in April, leading to a busy coaching search, a flirtation with Tim Cluess (who stepped down from his job a year later), a dalliance with Porter Moser, famous alum Mike Repole going off on the program and the school on the radio, and then the hire of Mike Anderson, which was greeted with question marks.

Some things did not go well under Anderson.

With weak non-conference slates, the Red Storm were not in strong position for postseason play despite winning records. The scheme was sold to the fans as a defensive-focused scheme, but the defense was not good at stopping the other team from scoring. Some of the recruits and transfers were mismatches with Anderson’s style or controlled basketball. The team was known to give up quick runs, losing big leads.

But some things did go well.

The Red Storm were fast and exciting. Anderson’s eye for talent brought in not just Posh Alexander, but lesser-heralded players like Rasheem Dunn, O’Mar Stanley, Dylan Addae-Wusu and Nick Rutherford. Julian Champagnie, Aaron Wheeler, Joel Soriano and Montez Mathis all blossomed under Anderson’s staff. The team was good enough to throw chaos at teams and give some thrills to the fans. For once, the Red Storm seemed to have recruiting inroads into the mid-tier New York City players, the four-year players who could be the backbone of a program — along with recruiting well in the South.

Good luck to Mike Anderson, who conducted himself with honor at St. John’s and was not dogged with questions about recruiting tactics or unwillingness to work.

St. John’s has been linked with Iona coach Rick Pitino, who has been to six Final Fours in his career and has won 832 games, if you do not consider the games vacated for various recruiting improprieties. His NCAA Championship with Louisville may have been vacated, but he has an earlier one with the University of Kentucky.

Georgetown and other schools will also look to bring in Rick Pitino; St. John’s may have to consider younger candidates who will be more of a long-term fix.

Can St. John’s get the next hire right, leaning on people with basketball expertise? Can they hire either a Hall of Famer or a up-and-comer who can handle the rigors of coaching in New York, one who has the patience to build connections inside and outside of th city?

Once again, the drama of a St. John’s coaching search is upon us.

And we add another name to the post Lou Carnesecca coaching list:

  • Brian Mahoney
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Mike Jarvis (and Kevin Clark, interim coach for half a season)
  • Norm Roberts
  • Steve Lavin
  • Chris Mullin
  • Mike Anderson