In introduction, Anderson says he's eager to create memories at St. John's

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Friday, April 19, 2019
Mike Anderson holds up a jersey after being introduced as the new St. John's men's basketball coach during a news conference, Friday, April 19, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Anderson was hired as Red Storm coach on Friday after he was fired by Arkansas in March 2019. (Craig Ruttle/Newsday via AP)
Mike Anderson holds up a jersey after being introduced as the new St. John's men's basketball coach during a news conference, Friday, April 19, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Anderson was hired as Red Storm coach on Friday after he was fired by Arkansas in March 2019. (Craig Ruttle/Newsday via AP)

St. John's athletics director Mike Cragg had been dreaming for much of the past nine days about the moment in which he would introduce the program's next men's basketball coach with great pride.

On Friday, he did so with former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson at his side.

Anderson, in a news conference held inside Madison Square Garden, was officially hired to become the 21st basketball coach at St. John's just 24 days after he was dismissed as coach of the Razorbacks after eight seasons. He finished with a 169-102 record at Arkansas, leading the Razorbacks to three NCAA Tournament appearances.

He takes over for Chris Mullin, the former St. John's star who stepped down last week following a four-year stint with the Red Storm. Mullin was 59-73 overall and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2019, losing to Arizona State in the First Four.

"This has been an amazing journey," Cragg said as Anderson sat to his right. "We’re very proud that we have found the best coach in Coach Anderson. I am so proud and so happy to partner with Mike Anderson. ... I found the right guy to partner with, and so we are going to win championships."

An engaged and witty 59-year-old Anderson, assuming the fourth head coaching job of his career, said he was contacted by St. John's officials on Wednesday and originally scheduled to visit the area to watch his nephew, Brooklyn Nets forward DeMarre Carroll, in the NBA playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.

He was most intrigued by the opportunity because of the program's potential and storied past. St. John's has a pair of Final Four appearances to its name, most recently in 1985 under Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca, and features former players such as Walter Berry, Mark Jackson and Mullin.

The Red Storm, however, haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 since 1999 and have been to the NCAA Tournament just eight times since 1992. In 17 years as a head coach, Anderson has made the NCAA Tournament nine times at Arkansas, Missouri and Alabama-Birmingham.

"But now I want to say let's create some more memories," Anderson said. "Let's create some memories now."

Anderson also made it a point to note he was back in the very building in which he won an NIT championship in 1981 - defeating Syracuse - as a guard at Tulsa under Nolan Richardson, his mentor. He then used a number of Richardson-like references while laying out his style of play.

Three St. John's players, including former Auburn star Mustapha Heron, stood on stage behind Anderson for a portion of the news conference as he spoke about building a program his way.

"I don't know how things happen, but I know things happen for a reason," Anderson said. "When you talk about the basketball, my resumè speaks for itself. ... I think there's so much to offer here. Talking to people here, they're thirsting for it, they're hungry for really good basketball. And they want to be entertained. Now, it ain't just entertaining, we're talking about winning basketball.

"When you think about the tradition, the history, I think this league - the Big East - they've done a great job of marketing. I'm looking forward to being a part of it."

Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek, in an interview with WholeHogSports on Friday, said he was happy for the Anderson family. After hiring new Arkansas coach Eric Musselman last week, Yurachek said firing Anderson on March 26 was the most difficult decision of his professional career.

"St. John's is a program that has had a rich and storied tradition with Lou Carnesecca and what they did in the early days of the Big East," Yurachek said. "It's a great opportunity for him and I'm really happy for him landing on his feet that quickly."

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