St. John’s Red Storm begins the Mike Anderson era

Mike Anderson, St. John's Red Storm. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Mike Anderson, St. John's Red Storm. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The St. John’s Red Storm turn the page on their disappointing last few seasons. In 2019-20, they are led by a proven winner, head coach Mike Anderson.

A new-look St. John’s Red Storm is ready to tip-off in what many experts believe to be a rebuilding year. The men’s basketball team is now under the direction of new head coach Mike Anderson and the Carnasecca faithful expect them to be competitive.

While the Big East Conference coaches pre-season polls predict the Red Storm to finish ninth out of a 10 team field, Anderson and company will be better than most outside of Queens anticipate.

Big East Preseason Poll

1- Seton Hall Pirates 77 points

2- Villanova Wildcats76 pts

3- Xavier Musketeers 52 pts

4- Marquette Golden Eagles 50 pts

4- Providece Friars 50 pts

6- Georgetown Hoyas 49 pts

7- Creighton Bluejays 45 pts

8- Butler Bulldogs 21 pts

9- St. John’s Red Storm 19 pts

10- DePaul Blue Demons 11 pts

(Coaches don’t put down their own team on the ballot)

After whiffing at attempts to lure Bobby Hurley, Porter Moser, and Tim Cluess away from their respective programs (Arizona State, Loyola-Chicago and Iona), St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg tabbed Anderson to lead the Red Storm in the post-Mullin era.

He wasn’t the sexiest pick, with no prior coaching or recruiting experience in the Northeast. But the Johnnies may have knocked their head coaching selection out of the park based on his resume and intangibles. Only time will only tell.

Anderson was able to convince Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa to stay with the program after losing last year’s starters Shamorie Ponds, Marvin Clark III and Justin Simon to the professional ranks.

Heron ranked second on the Johnnies averaging 14.6 PPG (points per game) and 4.6 RPG (rebounds per game) while shooting 40.3 percent from three. Figueroa, entering his junior campaign was just a tick behind Heron averaging 14.4 PPG while leading the team in rebounds with 6.4 RPG.

With the returning veterans, Anderson also recruited Jonathan McGriff and Julian Champagnie. Additionally, sophomore point guard Ian Steere to transferred in from North Carolina State.

With Heron and Figueroa leading a “secret” closed scrimmage in scoring, the Johnnies beat Temple, a team that went 23-10 last season earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The result of the scrimmage begs the question: “Is the Red Storm offense that good or the Temple defense that bad?

Fans will get a chance to really see what Anderson and company look like based on their strength of schedule this year. St. John’s faces Arizona State then possibly last year’s tournament champ Virginia in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic beginning November 24. They also have nonconference games against Vermont, West Virginia, and Arizona before the Big East season begins.

Anderson is known as a defensive-first coach, learning under 1994 NCAA Tournament Champion head coach Nolan Richardson, the author of “40 Minutes of Hell.” He will rely on two-way players to execute his up-tempo style. The coach wants guys who can get back on defense and make stops that will lead to offensive scoring chances.

Current New York Knicks big man Bobby Portis, who played for Anderson at Arkansas from 2013-15, told the New York Post’s Zach Braziller:

"“He was a great coach, he pushed you hard each and every day to be great. He always pushed your mind. I think that made me great. He would challenge you in different ways.”"

How will Anderson avoid the immediate losing the most teams face in the first year of a rebuild?

Mike Anderson enters his 18th season as a head coach. In that time, the 58-year-old has never posted a losing season as the man in charge, going 369-200 during his time with UAB, Missouri, and Arkansas.

With 31 games on the 2019-2020 schedule, I think the Johnnies finish 16-15, going 9-4 in non-conference play with a 7-11 mark in the Big East.

He already has three-star prospects and high school teammates Posh Alexander and Dylan Wusu committed, according to

"“You want talented players, but I want guys who fit what we’re doing. I want guys that are mentally tough, aggressive, instinctive players,” Anderson told the New York Post last month. You can’t get it twisted. Great players make great coaches. But with that being said, you can’t put a ranking on a guy’s heart. I always thought that.”"

Next. Nets earn another home win on Kyrie Irving’s back. dark

The Red Storm tip-off Wednesday against Mercer at Carnasecca Arena.