Anderson Gears Up For First Season As Head Coach

There’s a lot to love about beginnings. Everything feels fresh and new, enough to make you jump out of bed at the crack of dawn with enthusiastic energy. Another positive is that you can’t dwell on the past

Wednesday night’s home opener for the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team marks the beginning of the Mike Anderson era in Queens as the 21st head coach in program history will look to start the 2019-20 campaign on a high note against Mercer University. Although this would be a new and exciting experience for some, Anderson seemed to be calm on Tuesday afternoon while speaking to the media, as if it is just another day at the office.

“I’m looking forwad to it,” Anderson said in a calm yet cheerful demeanor. “I’m looking forward to our guys going out and hopefully playing at a level that our fans can appreciate and enjoy.”

Anderson’s demeanor is most likely due to the fact that this isn’t his first rodeo as he heads into season number 18 of his head coaching career. His career has taken him to the University of Alabama Birmingham, the University of Missouri and the University of Arkansas, where he has made it to the NCAA Tournament nine times. 

Another factor is that his team showed a lot of promise in last week’s exhibition game against Queens College at Carnesecca Arena, which resulted in a resounding 94-59 win over the Knights.

“Our guys played hard,” Anderson said reflecting on last Wednesday. “We didn’t execute all the time, I think we gotta get better in that department, being more efficient. Guys came off the bench and gave us some quality minutes and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Looking back on last week’s exhibition game, there was a lot to like. The Red Storm forced 22 turnovers while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. L.J. Figueroa and Mustapha Heron led the Red Storm with a combined 59 points, which is something the duo is going to have to produce on a nightly basis in order for the Red Storm to have success this season. 

One of the brightest spots for the Red Storm was the help they received from the bench as Anderson made a flury of substitutions throughout the game. Sophomore Marcellus Earlington scored more than half of the team’s bench points, dropping 12 points while shooting 45 percent from the field.

“We have an honest system where guys go out and leave everything on the floor,” Anderson said. “I want our guys to go out and have fun and do the things we’ve been working on in practice each and every day. Create havoc, create turnovers, but we want to take care of the basketball. I think that’s the biggest thing and not let people get comfortable, especially in Carnesecca Arena, Madison Square Garden, wherever it is.”

Wednesday night’s matchup is the first between Mercer and St. John’s. Although this is the first time the two teams will meet, Anderson and his team don’t expect to take their unfamiliar opponenets lightly. “Mercer is going to come in here and throw a punch, and we got to be able to throw our own punch,” Anderson said.

 Like St. John’s, Mercer is also in the midst of a new coaching era as Greg Gary was named the Bears head coach in March. Gary previously served under Matt Painter at Purdue University, helping the Boilermakers to seven NCAA Tournaments and two Big Ten regular season titles.

“[They have a] new coach so that means they have new energy on their basketball team,” Anderson said. “Of course you’ve seen the success that Purdue has had, so I’m sure they’ll do some of those things … hard-nosed defense, motion offense, multiple guys that can score, very versatile.”

Although Mercer isn’t neccesarily a big opponent in comparison to the other matchups on the Red Storm’s schedule, Anderson understands the importance of Wednesday night, as well as every other game on the schedule.

“I always think every game is a big game, no matter who we play,” Anderson said. “The next big game on our schedule obviously is Mercer.”