After bumbling and stumbling through the strangest hiring process this side of UCLA, St. John’s finally has a new head coach in Mike Anderson.
The most bizarre coaching search in the country has reportedly come to an end. St. John’s, which got turned down by four different candidates for its vacant head coaching position, is closing in on a deal with former Arkansas head man Mike Anderson to succeed Chris Mullin, who resigned after this season.
Anderson, 59, was fired by the Razorbacks after going 18-16 in his eighth year at the helm and a second-round loss in the NIT. Arkansas went 169-102 under Anderson’s watch, advancing to the NCAA Tournament three times, but never getting beyond the first weekend.
Anderson does have nine trips to March Madness in his coaching career, including a Sweet 16 trip with UAB in 2004 and an Elite Eight appearance at Missouri in 2009. Overall, Anderson’s teams have made nine trips to the NCAA Tournament since 2002, compared to just four for St. John’s as a whole over the same time period.
On the surface, this is a decent hire since Anderson is one of just four active coaches with 15+ years of experience without a losing season. That alone should make Anderson an upgrade over Mullin, but this still feels like a misfire since he was at best the Red Storm’s fifth choice for the job.
The complete ineptitude St. John’s displayed during this coaching search made them a laughing stock nationally, with a prominent booster airing a ton of dirty laundry on the local radio the day before Anderson’s hire. It also isn’t a good look for the Red Storm that three successful mid-major coaches (Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser, UMBC’s Ryan Odom, and Iona’s Tim Cluess) opted to stay put rather than jump to the Big East with St. John’s.
St. John’s is a Big East school that is based in New York City and plays some home games at Madison Square Garden, yet due to their administration’s ineptitude, they were forced to settle for a coach who just got fired by Arkansas. Anderson also has no recruiting ties to this area, making it a very tough job for him to retain players on the current roster or take advantage of the talented players coming out of the tri-state area.
Even though Bobby Hurley was AD Mike Cragg’s initial target, the best fit for this position would have been Cluess, a St. John’s alum who has demonstrated an ability to win in the area by building a MAAC powerhouse at Iona. Instead, St. John’s complete dysfunction left them with a fallback option with little upside, a very poor sign for a school that considers itself the top college basketball program in New York City.