After a whirlwind coaching search with several head coaches reportedly rejecting the job, St. John’s has named long-time head coach Mike Anderson as the new leader of the Red Storm men’s basketball program. Anderson was most recently the head coach at Arkansas – he was fired last month after eight seasons – but also led the Missouri and UAB programs.
“Coach Anderson is one of the most respected coaches in college basketball and there is no doubt in my mind that he is the perfect fit to lead our program,” AD Mike Cragg said in a statement Friday. “He has built programs and has sustained success throughout his career. We are confident that his extensive coaching experience, recruiting acumen and skill development program will elevate St. John’s basketball to new heights.”
Anderson’s on-court credentials are hardly in question: he has led three teams to the NCAA Tournament (nine times in total) and has been a Division I head coach every season since 2002. He never finished below .500 in eight years in Fayetteville and won 22+ four times, including two of the last three seasons.
“My family and I are extremely excited to join the St. John’s University community,” Anderson said in a release. “This basketball program is rooted with such great tradition and it has a history built by legendary coaches, so this is a humbling experience. I look forward to mentoring the young men who will represent St. John’s proudly on the court, in the classroom and in our community.”
The geography might be the biggest question mark with this hire, as Anderson hails from Alabama and has spent his entire coaching career in SEC country. But hiring the right staff can make up for a lot of the perceived lack of experience recruiting the East Coast.
Friday’s hiring marks the end of an interesting April for St. John’s. First, Cragg gave what appeared to be a vote of confidence in head coach Chris Mullin before the Final Four in Minneapolis, only for Mullin to step down barely a week later. Then came the rejections: Bobby Hurley, who played at Duke while Cragg was there, turned down the job and got a big extension at Arizona State; then Tim Cluess was interviewed but seemingly looked over for other candidates; attention turned to Porter Moser, who seemed primed to take the gig but ultimately decided to stay at Loyola (IL); then finally back to Cluess, who said “thanks but no thanks” this week.
St. John’s players and fans are surely happy to see the process come to a close and – given all the chaos – landing Anderson could end up being a major coup for the program.
credit to Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images for the photo