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Sports Journee

Why St. John’s believes in Mike Anderson (even if you might not)


NEW YORK — Mike Anderson knows pace. His entire basketball brand is based on pace, dating back to his days under Nolan Richardson and his “40 Minutes of Hell.”

And Anderson had heard the old adages about a “New York minute,” how everything is faster in New York City. But he still wasn’t ready for it when he arrived as the new head coach at St. John’s in April.

“When I got the job, I was here for a month before I went back to Arkansas,” Anderson told ESPN. “Man, the pace was unbelievable. I went back there and it was like things were in slow motion.”

He said he’s used to the speed of things now — which is a good thing, given that he had to hit the ground running since replacing Chris Mullin. Red Storm fans are hoping Anderson’s reputation for speed carries over to the rebuilding effort that faces him, too. Anderson has to replace six players from last season’s team, but even Mullin — the school’s all-time greatest player — started feeling heat after three years in charge.

Anderson understands slow doesn’t work in the Big Apple.


Mike Cragg found out the same way most of the college basketball world did: on Twitter, the night of the national championship game.

The St. John’s athletic director was on a flight back to New York from the Final Four in Minneapolis when news broke that Mullin was planning to step down as the head coach of the Red Storm.

“When I landed, my phone was blowing up,” Cragg said.

Rumors had swirled all week about tension between Mullin and the St. John’s administration, leading Cragg to make a statement on Final Four Saturday that “Coach Mullin is our head coach and we are not looking for another head coach.” Cragg and Mullin had multiple meetings in the two weeks between the time St. John’s lost to Arizona State in the First Four and when coaches, agents and athletic directors descended on Minneapolis for the final weekend of the season.

“I didn’t know everything that was going on [on Twitter]; I knew some of it. I said, if something happens that I need to know, please let me know. The narrative didn’t matter. My job was to find our head coach.”

St. John’s AD Mike Cragg

While sources told ESPN at the time that there were points of contention during the meetings, Cragg says now that he left the final meeting with Mullin thinking the Hall of Famer was still going to be head coach moving forward.

“It was a surprise,” Cragg said.

Suddenly, Mullin was out and Cragg needed a basketball coach. Just over six months into his first stint as an athletic director, Cragg was being tasked with finding a replacement for one of the best basketball players to ever come out of New York.

It didn’t take long for a narrative to form around the Red Storm’s coaching search. Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley signed a contract extension, Loyola-Chicago’s Porter Moser decided to stay with the Ramblers and Iona’s Tim Cluess also announced he was taking himself out of the running. Vitaminwater founder Mike Repole, an alumnus and major booster for the St. John’s program, went on Mike Francesa’s WFAN show in New York to rant about the coaching search, calling it a “national embarrassment.”

Cragg didn’t pay attention to most of it. His first order of business after Mullin stepped down? Deleting Twitter from his phone.

“It was like, ‘How in the heck is this out there?'” Cragg said of the rumors and reports about the St. John’s search. “I couldn’t see all this stuff. So I deleted it. … I didn’t know everything that was going on [on Twitter]; I knew some of it. I said, if something happens that I need to know, please let me know.

“The narrative didn’t matter. My job was to find our head coach.”

After a couple public swings and misses, Cragg forged on. He didn’t hire a search firm, instead relying on the advice of his former colleagues at Duke — namely Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel. While discussing names with Capel over the phone one day, the Pittsburgh head coach suggested the Anderson, who had been fired on March 26 after eight seasons as Arkansas’ coach. Cragg wanted to know if Anderson would entertain the idea — and while Capel was calling Anderson to gauge his interest, Cragg called Krzyzewski.



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