Hired in the off-season, Anderson may be a first-year head coach for the storied Queens-based program, but in 17 consecutive seasons of mostly Division I coaching, Anderson has never had a losing season.
Through stints at UAB, Missouri and Arkansas, he’s amassed an impressive resume, with an overall record of 369-200 and nine total NCAA Tournament appearances, highlighted by an Elite Eight bid in 2009.
In effect, the Big East is collectively suggesting that Anderson will have his first losing season as a head coach.
“There’s work to be done,” Anderson acknowledged at last week Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden. “The inexperience, I think we have to make that not be a factor. We need to get our guys inundated in terms of how we want to play, whether through practice or through non-conference schedule, to prepare them for Big East play.”
Even when he was fired from Arkansas following the 2018-19 campaign, the Razorbacks finished 18-16 with an 8-10 record in SEC play, capped by a second-round loss in the NIT.
Arkansas was also a year removed from a four-season stretch that included three NCAA Tournament showings and a 26 and 27-win season.
The Red Storm is led by All-Big East Preseason Second Team honorees Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa, both of whom were key contributors to last season’s Red Storm roster that got into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.
Following Shamorie Ponds’ All-Big East caliber campaign of 2018-19, Heron (14.6 points per game) and Figueroa (14.4 points) led the Johnnies in scoring last season. Heron also notably hit on 40 percent from three-point land while pulling down 4.6 rebounds per contest.
Figueroa added a team-best 6.4 boards per game despite a 6-foot-6 frame, while also hitting over 51 percent from the field and recording 1.8 steals per game.
“I think Mustapha and LJ have been leading this bunch here,” Anderson said. “Guys are working extremely hard, and these guys are picking up on what we want offensively and defensively. For me, we need to make sure that these guys are playing at a high level.”
Heron, one of four seniors on this year’s squad, spoke of his necessary leadership for the pending 2019-20 campaign.
“I’ve taken it head on,” he said. “I have to be a leader, one of the guys that’s first guy in, last guy to leave, who’s preaching coach’s lesson, who’s pulling guys to the side and making sure his message is getting across to everybody.”
He said that as a senior, it’s critical that he is one of the big leaders during Anderson’s first go-round in Queens.
“Senior year, so it’s go big or go home,” he admitted at MSG. “I’m taking it one day at a time, appreciating every day, trying to learn every day, get better as a leader, a player and as a person.
“I think the keyword this morning on the panel was veteran leadership,” Heron added. “Being in college for four years, playing in two different conferences, I think I can bring something to the table that is a little different.”
As a junior, Figueroa is also expected to take a leadership role head on.
“I’m excited to help our younger guys on the team be the best they can be,” he said. “We’re definitely excited with a new system, new coach, new players. It’s definitely a whole new system, but just have fun with it and bring everything you can every day.”
And of course, Heron didn’t buy into the lack of hype for this year’s team.
“It’s motivation, but it’s someone else’s opinion,” he insists. “We can’t control someone else’s opinion, so we have to go out and do what we’re supposed to.”