St. John’s long and dramatic search for a new men’s basketball coach came to an end Friday morning, as the school announced the hiring of former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson in a news release.
Anderson’s arrival ends a 10-day search that seemed to grow more arduous by the day. After Chris Mullin stepped down on April 9 after four years at the helm, the Big East program swung and missed on two big-name targets: Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley and Loyola-Chicago’s Porter Moser. Iona’s Tim Cluess took his name out of consideration Thursday.
UMBC coach Ryan Odom was also linked to the job but dispelled those rumors Wednesday. The longer the job stayed vacant, the more criticism the Red Storm received. Most of it has been aimed at the administration and Athletic Director Mike Cragg, who has hired from Duke in September. Reports emerged that Cragg and the administration disagreed on whether to consider Cluess for the job.
New York businessman and major St. John’s booster Mike Repole went on popular New York radio station WFAN on Wednesday and told host Mike Francesa that the school needed a new president, calling the culture “toxic” and the program a “national embarrassment.” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Seth Davis tweeted that the St. John’s search was “the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.”
The program made a push to end the saga Thursday, interviewing Anderson, Yale Coach James Jones and former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt and arriving at terms with the 59-year-old Anderson late Thursday night, according to the New York Post. Specifics of the deal are still unknown.
“This basketball program is rooted with such great tradition and it has a history built by legendary coaches, so this is a humbling experience,” Anderson said in the news release.
Anderson spent eight seasons at Arkansas, going 169-102 and making three NCAA tournament appearances. He was previously the head coach at UAB and Missouri. Anderson is one of just four Division I coaches with at least 15 years of experience and no losing seasons. But some analysts criticized the hire, citing Anderson’s lack of New York ties and recent futility at Arkansas.
He inherits a St. John’s roster that is in flux. Juniors Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon declared for the NBA draft, sophomore forward L.J. Figueroa entered his name into the transfer portal and senior Marvin Clark Jr. is set to graduate. Junior Mustapha Heron is the only player who averaged double figures last year who has not made a move toward leaving.
The Red Storm finished 21-13 and 8-10 in the Big East last year, falling in the “First Four” round of the NCAA tournament. Under Mullin, St. John’s went 59-73 and 20-52 in the Big East. Last year was his first winning season as head coach.
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