To no one’s surprise, St. John’s made the move it had to make Friday by parting ways with Mike Anderson after four disappointing seasons.
The obvious next step is to hire Rick Pitino away from Iona.
Multiple reports indicate that there is mutual interest between the school and Pitino. AND Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports that the Johnnies have been working on investigating Pitino for some time.
The hiring would create more excitement in Jamaica, Queens, for a nationally significant program that once stood with pride since Lou Carnesecca’s Chris Mullin-Walter Berry-Mark Jackson teams of the 1980s.
Sure, Mike Jarvis coached the sons of Fran Frischilla one step away from the Final Four in 1999, but the Johnnies haven’t won an NCAA tournament game, or even reached a Big East semifinal, in 23 years. The program has only four NCAA appearances at that time.
A surprise signing to succeed Chris Mullin in 2019, Mike Anderson is a good man who had a lot of success on major shows before setting foot in Queens. He also had the pedigree of being Nolan Richardson’s top lieutenant for the Arkansas 40 Minutes of Hell teams that won the 1994 national championship and finished runners-up to UCLA in 1995.
Anderson’s teams often emulated that style during stops at UAB, Missouri, Arkansas, and the early years at St. John’s.
After winning Big East Coach of the Year in 2020-21, Anderson’s teams had the talent to make it to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons and failed during Big East play each time. As Anderson said again after Thursday’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals, the Red Storm had the talent, but the question was whether they cemented themselves enough to be a tournament-worthy team. the NCAA. Obviously not. And part, if not most, of that failure fell on Anderson himself. He cost him his job.
Anderson leaves with four years and $10 million remaining on his contract. Struggling for all that money, St. John’s did not make this decision lightly, nor did it do so without a plan. And that plan seems to be Pitino.
Although Pitino comes with the baggage of scandals, both within the show and personally, in Louisville, he has made the most of his moment on Iona, waiting for one more opportunity to return to national prominence. His name is also linked to openings at Georgetown and Texas Tech.
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There’s no way St. John’s can sign a worthy rising star (think Hofstra’s Speedy Claxton) who needs time to rebuild the program only to see Pitino turn things around for rival Hoyas on short notice.
If Pitino leaves Iona this offseason, St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg and president, Father Brian Shanley, must make sure his only stop outside of New Rochelle is the short drive across the Whitestone Bridge. to Jamaica, Queens, less than 25 miles from where Pitino grew up. in Bayview, LI
The resume speaks for itself: national titles on two different shows, a Final Four in Providence and a successful two-year run at Madison Square Garden leading the Knicks.
At 70, Pitino won’t be considered a long-term solution, but he could change the culture of a program that asks for him soon enough to hand him over to someone in their coaching tree or to that worthy rising star mentioned above. I’ll always be throwing around the name of Kimani Young, former St. John’s staffer and New York-raised AAU associate head coach at UConn, who may finally land his first mid-Major job this offseason after flirting with a couple of vacancies last time. year.
The Red Storm fan base deserves this kind of excitement again. Pitino has been crying out since he arrived and beat Iona two years ago. With a spot in Saturday’s MAAC title game, his Gaels are one win away from his second NCAA tournament appearance in three years.
Imagine, Johnnies fans, three years from now saying those words. A second NCAA tournament appearance in three years. The first NCAA tournament win in a quarter century. All this is conceivable with this rental.
For now, the list of candidates should be short. Rick Pitino is the only name that should be on it.