Our long national nightmare finally came to an end on Friday, when St. John’s announced that Mike Anderson was their newly hired men’s basketball coach.
Anderson’s hiring ends a disaster pile of a tire fire that was the coaching search. Chris Mullin stepped down on Tuesday, April 9th, and in the next nine days, at least seven guys were attached to the job search in a serious way. The seemingly most obvious choice of Iona’s Tim Cluess was in the picture from the start but that never seemed to go anywhere with the St. John’s administration. The most publicly humiliating responses came from Loyola-Chicago’s Porter Moser who interviewed for the job and then turned it down, as well as UMBC’s Ryan Odom who was connected to the job and then immediately got an extension from his athletic director.
Somehow, Rick Pitino declaring himself a candidate was actually not the most ridiculous thing that happened in this whole process.
Anderson’s the guy after 17 years of experience as a head coach at the Division 1 level. The last eight seasons came at Arkansas, where he compiled a 169-102 record, never finished under .500, made the NCAA tournament three times and the NIT twice.... and was summarily fired back on March 26th. Considering that he was an assistant to Nolan Richardson between 1985 and 2002 before striking out on his own as a head coach, that’s pretty harsh treatment from the Hogs.
Overall, Anderson has gone 369-200 as a head coach and has never had a losing season at any of his three stops. The more long term Marquette fans might remember Anderson from his four year stint at UAB, the first three of which matched up with Marquette’s last three years in Conference USA. It was Anderson’s first Blazers squad that knocked MU out of the Conference USA tournament in their very first game in 2003.
If his previous coaching stops are to be taken as an indicator of what to expect from the Red Storm going forward, then we know they’re going to be a high paced team. Anderson’s slowest team ever relative to the rest of the country was the 2015-16 Arkansas squad that “only” ranked #94 in the country in tempo per KenPom.com. His 2005-06 UAB team was his slowest in terms of possession count at 68.5 per game. His teams are generally adept on both ends of the court, they aren’t prone to coughing the ball up, they force a lot of turnovers, and block a lot of shots. Anderson’s teams are never going to make you afraid of them on the glass, though. They’re traditionally a perfectly acceptable offensive rebounding team, but usually an objectively bad defensive rebounding team. Let’s put it this way: When Arkansas finished 2015-16 ranked #190 in defensive rebounding rate, that was a positive aberration in Anderson’s general profile.
Anderson will have his work cut out for him in the immediate future. Marvin Clark was a senior and both Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon declared for the NBA Draft and signed with an agent. Bryan Trimble and LJ Figueroa both entered into the transfer portal already, but in theory they could both end up on the St. John’s roster by the time things settle down. Mustapha Heron is the only starter that is anything resembling expected to return at this point, which is probably a bad sign for the roster in general.
While a bad place to start, as mentioned earlier, Anderson has never finished under .500 in any of his seasons as a head coach. I wouldn’t wager on this being his first, but I’m also not going to expect St. John’s to make their second straight NCAA tournament, either.
Head on over to our NYC-area friends, Rumble In The Garden, for more on Anderson’s hiring and where their roster goes from here.