NEW YORK – St. John’s University is 2-0 in its most recent press conferences to introduce a head basketball coach. The first press conference win came on March 31, 2015 when Chris Mullin returned to the very Jamaica Estates campus he electrified as a player in the early ’80s. The expectations were quite high for Mullin to return to the Final Four as a coach and team motivator/galvanizer.
The second press conference win came today as St. John’s introduced Mike Anderson as its 21st head coach in the school’s long, glorious basketball history. They made the announcement at Madison Square Garden, currently the basketball program’s most valuable asset.
Winning press conferences in New York City is not an easy task, especially after a disappointing season, an awkward parting with Mullin and a series of botched efforts to hire the new coach. It is magnified in the city as it all plays out on the back pages of the NYC tabloids.
Somehow, just in time for high, holiday weekend, St. John’s Athletic Director Mike Cragg pulled an Easter rabbit out of his top hat and found a coach that can possibly re-build and coach the storied basketball program. As Mullin found out, winning a press conference is one thing, but winning basketball games in the Big East Conference is another.
In four years as head coach, Mullin’s Johnnies went (59-73, .447 overall), and (20-52, .278) in conference. Many of those 59 wins came in early season regular season tune-ups, as evidenced by the 12-0 start St. John’s enjoyed this past November-December. In Big East play, it wasn’t very pretty.
St. John’s recent Big East record:
- 2015-16 – Big East record 1-17
- 2016-17 – Big East record 7-11
- 2017-18 – Big East record 4-14
- 2018-19 – Big East record 8-10
Since Mike Jarvis ran the program into the ground after taking over a pretty competitive team from Fran Frachilla in 1998, the Johnnies have run through a half-dozen head coaches, with only Steve Lavin departing with a winning record.
Those track records were diametrically opposite of St. John’s Hall of Fame coaches, Joe Lapchick (334-130, .720) and Lou Carnesecca (526-200, .725).
Anderson spent the past eight seasons at Arkansas, where he led the Razorbacks to five postseason appearances and won 22 or more games four times in his final six seasons. At Arkansas, Anderson logged a 169-102 (.624) record with a 2014-15 best of 27 victories, 13 of which came in SEC play. That season, the Razorbacks finished second in the SEC regular season and during the past five basketball seasons, the only SEC team with more overall and conference wins was Kentucky.
This past season, Anderson took a team that had lost more than 80 percent of its scoring and led it to the second round of the NIT. Only three players returned from the previous year’s squad.
Despite that success, Arkansas fired Anderson on March 26th.
St. John’s Press Conference
Anderson was out of work less than a month, but was not amongst the top candidates for the Red Storm job as North New Jersey native and former Duke and NBA guard Bobby Hurley of Arizona State, Loyola-Chicago’s Porter Moser and Tim Cluess of Iona – a former St. John’s player – reportedly turned down the opportunity to coach the Queens squad.
Anderson was lower on the list but enthusiastic about the opportunity ahead.
“My goal as a head coach is to win a championship and in order to do that you have to have a vision of what it will take,” said Anderson today. “I really feel that the place for that to happen is St. John’s. We are in the Mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden. For all the New Yorkers and all the St. John’s alumni, for the administration, for the students and for the faculty, I want you know you got a guy here who is going to leave it all on the floor. You are going to have kids who represent this University in a first class manor on and off the floor.”
“When you come to Madison Square Garden, when you come to Carnessecca Arena, you are going to see a team that is going to be really entertaining,” added Anderson. “They are going to guard, they are going to defend, they are going to be one of the top assist teams in the country, and they are going to be one of the top (at forcing) turnover teams in the country.
“They will be one of the best scoring teams and field goal teams. It’s going to be a team that has depth, these guys are going to get the chance to showcase their God given ability.”