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Mike Cragg Finds His Man: Mike Anderson

As the St. John’s search comes to a close

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NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Missouri
Feb 12, 2019; Columbia, MO, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson reacts to a play against the Missouri Tigers at Mizzou Arena.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Former Duke assistant A.D. Mike Cragg, now the head man at St. John’s, took some heat for the search to replace recently resigned Chris Mullin. Having whiffed on Bobby Hurley, Porter Moser and Tim Cluess, some people were starting to panic.

In fairness to Cragg and St. John’s, they never publicized their overtures. The search was conducted in a professional and reasonable manner. It’s not their fault that this turned into a spectacle.

It is to their credit that it ended Thursday night with former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson.

On the surface it may seem like an odd hire. It’s always a plus to have city ties in New York and Anderson, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama and coached at Tulsa and Arkansas as an assistant to Nolan Richardson before taking the Mizzou job and then returning to Arkansas, has few.

But he is a far better basketball coach than Mullin ever was and he does have an exciting, fast-paced style that should appeal to St. John’s fans and more importantly, to recruits.

It may take people a little while to get used to the hire but it’s relatively low risk and the potential is pretty high. He wasn’t as good at Arkansas as he was at Mizzou but he was damn good there.

His biggest challenge is to decide how local he wants to be. Like Memphis, you can recruit at St. John’s and never have to fly anywhere. Or he could cast a bigger net.

He’ll need to curry local ties and one suggestion by the New York Post is to hire former Duke walk-on Andy Borman, who works with the New York Rens, an AAU program, and who might be a great fit. He certainly knows the local scene and a guy like that could be indispensable.

But our guess is that almost no matter who he hires, the recruiting will be much easier at St. John’s than it was at sleepy Arkansas. It’s a basketball school in a still vital basketball Mecca and if he can find enough players - he starts with just seven - then it could be a great partnership for everyone.

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