Coach K told St. John's Mike Anderson would be a 'home run' hire | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / July 2.
  • Coach K told St. John’s Mike Anderson would be a ‘home run’ hire

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    NEW YORK — St. John’s doesn’t play Duke in the non-conference this season, so Mike Anderson won’t get a chance to thank Mike Krzyzewski personally before a game between the two storied programs.

    When St. John’s AD Mike Cragg, who spent 30-plus years at Duke before coming to St. John’s in 2018, asked Coach K’s opinion on whom to hire to replace Chris Mullin last spring, Coach K gave a full-throated endorsement of Anderson.

    “Wow, if you can get him that would be a home run,” Coach K told Cragg, according to a text Cragg sent me Friday.

    “I didn’t ask anyone else,” Cragg added.

    Cragg said Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel first suggested Anderson, and that Cragg had been speaking with both men “since the first hours of the search.” Capel was on the 1994 Duke team that lost to Arkansas in the 1994 NCAA championship game. Anderson was Nolan Richardson’s assistant on that squad.

    St. John’s parted ways with Mullin in early April after St. John’s lost to Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament, and I reported on April 18 the school had chosen Anderson as his successor.

    Anderson, 59, is 369-200 in his career at Arkansas, UAB and Missouri. He’s been to nine NCAA Tournaments, but only once has he advanced as far as the Elite Eight. In eight seasons at Arkansas, he went to the Big Dance three times but never advanced past the second round.

    Many people thought St. John’s made a curious hire because Anderson has no natural ties to the New York area or the Big East. Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, a New Jersey native, Iona’s Tim Cluess, who played at St. John’s, and Long Island native and former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt were seen by many as more natural fits.

    Still, Mullin said Anderson was a “great selection.”

    “He’s got a great track record, I got friends that know him,” Mullin told the Associated Press in April. “Some of my friends who played at Arkansas know him well. He’s a class guy, great fit. He’ll do a good job.”

    On Thursday, Anderson thanked Coach K for his endorsement.

    “It’s a tribute to what I’ve always been about,” Anderson said at Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden. “I’ve always been one of those guys who’s a worker. You see me out at games, even as an assistant coach, I’m not one of those guys that likes to run my mouth. I just go out and work.

    “We had a tremendous program at Arkansas, we competed against Duke quite a bit. But at the same time, when I’d see [Coach K] on the road, obviously as a coach you look up to him, you respect him, and I was very cordial with him always. So I’ve just over the years, maybe he’s been watching what we’ve been doing, whether it’s at Arkansas whether it’s at UAB, whether it’s at Missouri, so I take that wholeheartedly if he’s one of those guys that vouched for me.

    “But I got a job to do. Mike Cragg had a vision in terms of what kind of coach he wanted and he ended up with me so now we get a chance to hopefully share a great vision and bring a championship to St. John’s. That’s the ultimate goal, is to bring a championship to St. John’s.”

    The Johnnies have a ways to go to get there.

    St. John’s was picked ninth out of 10 teams in the preseason Big East poll, and the program faces questions for this season, including how the point guard situation will play out.

    Still, Anderson joked that he’s not concerned about where the Red Storm were chosen.

    “I always say, I’m from a family of eight, I was the sixth kid,” Anderson related Thursday, “I didn’t turn out too bad.

    “I was my third choice on my wife’s side. I was the third choice for and I didn’t turn out bad.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.