The school welcomed him to usher in the post-Chris Mullin era for the men’s basketball program on Friday, his fourth head coaching gig within the last 13 years, ending the extensive and complex national search to fill the void left by Mullin following the best season in his four-year tenure.
“We were committed to finding the best coach in America to represent St. John’s and to be where our goals are, that is to be a Big East Championship program and to compete for national championships,” said St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg at an introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden.
“We are in the kid business, and what that means for St. John’s could be different from what it means at another school,” he added. “For St. John’s, it means we need a coach who is committed to the players and works hard.”
Anderson, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, expressed his desire to rebuild St. John’s into a consistently winning program. Though they’re coming off an NCAA Tournament bid last month, the Johnnies have only qualified for the Big Dance three times since 2002.
“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. “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,” he added. “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.”
Anderson has been a Division I NCAA men’s basketball head coach since 2002, amassing a record of 369-200.
From 2002-2006, Anderson went 89-41 with UAB, leading the Blazers to three consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.
Anderson was at the helm for the Missouri Tigers from 2006-2011, putting together a record of 111-57, reaching the Elite Eight in 2009 behind the strength of current Brooklyn Nets star DeMarre Carroll, who is also Anderson’s nephew.
Anderson’s most recent stop was at the University of Arkansas, where he has coached the Razorbacks since 2011, finding the NCAA Tournament on three occasions.
“What Chris [Mullin] did with this team last year, they won 21 games, I watched from a far,” he said. “What I want to do is have an opportunity to come in and continue to take this program to another level.
“There is a core here, and my job is to come in and evaluate and add some more pieces to it,” he added.
LJ Figueroa, Justin Simon, Marvin Clark and others have appeared in photos with Anderson, seemingly in support of the new St. John’s head coach, via the school’s general and men’s basketball social media feeds.
Simon declared for the NBA Draft on April 10, with the intention of remaining in the selection process.
While the future remains in limbo, coach Anderson insists that St. John’s will be competitive in recruiting the best players in New York State – which they have scarcely done this century – and more importantly, in the Big East.
“I know how to win,” he said confidently. “That’s not bragging, I just know how to win. The good lord brought these guys here, but my job as a coach is to get it out of them. This coach here will look out for their best interest.”