Friday, March 10, 2023

St. John's Moves On From Anderson, But Maybe Another Figure Is At Fault For Team's Fall


Former St. John's Head Coach Mike Anderson (right) with announcer John Minko. @StJohnsBball.

Just 24 hours after St. John's lost in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals to Marquette in overtime on Thursday afternoon, they announced the firing of Head Coach Mike Anderson.

In his four years at the helm, Anderson had an overall record of 68-56, with a lot of those wins coming in non-conference play.

This season was an all-too-typical one for St. John's, going back to when Chris Mullin was the head coach (2015-19), as they raced out to an 11-1 record before losing their first five games in Big East play, and stumbling to a 7-13 mark in conference games.

They finished eighth in the conference, and won their first game at the Big East Tournament on Wednesday night over Butler, 76-63, before losing to Marquette.

St. John's Director of Athletics Mike Cragg said in a statement, "After fully evaluating the men's basketball program, our University has decided a change is needed in both the leadership and direction of St. John's Basketball. We wish Coach Mike Anderson and his family the best in their future.

Quick question: when was the last time St. John's made the semifinals of the Big East Tournament? 2000, when they won the Tournament with Mike Jarvia at the helm.

That shows that this has gone beyond Anderson, who has 414 wins in his career.

This is as much on Mike Cragg, who arrived in 2018 with a Duke Blue Devils pedigree, as he worked there for 30 years and rose as high as Deputy Athletic Director.

The thinking was that he could restore the glory of the 1980s to Carnesecca Arena, and instead the decline of the program continued. 

The Red Storm have never sniffed the NCAA Tournament in the five seasons he has been at the helm, leading them to be as irrelevant as ever, to the point that Fordham eclipsed them as the New York basketball team to focus on this March.

It also should be noted that they played just three Big East Conference regular season games at Madison Square Garden despite a vow when he was hired that it would be their home court more than ever.

If The Garden is not a viable option anymore, a long overdue renovation to Carnesecca Arena, or a new arena, should be considered. At this point, it is antiquated and does not have the history that other older facilities have to warrant keeping it as it is.

To lure big recruits, you need a top arena on-campus and not have to rely on the whims of an arena that's weighing whether to have college hoops, which draws 6-10,000 fans or a concert, which is a guaranteed sellout.

Cragg picked Anderson to be head coach in 2019, and after seeing how it went, does he deserve another go at it? Or, should the two jobs at a school who's primary sport is basketball, be in tandem?

Of course, if Cragg can lean into his Duke history and lure Coach K out of retirement, then he certainly will prove he deserves to stay.

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