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Mike Anderson accepts St. John's head-coaching job, sources say

The former Arkansas coach has had success taking three teams to the NCAA Tournament. 

Mike Anderson reacts during the second half of

Mike Anderson reacts during the second half of a first round NIT game between Arkansas and Providence in Providence, R.I., Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Photo Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

St. John’s search for a new basketball coach is over.

Former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was offered and accepted the job on Thursday night and will be introduced at a Friday news conference, multiple administration sources told Newsday.

The sides agreed to terms in the final hours of the night.

New York basketball sources said St. John’s conducted interviews with three candidates on Thursday: Anderson, Yale coach and Half Hollow Hills West graduate James Jones and Westbury product and Los Angeles Clippers scout Paul Hewitt.

Anderson, 59, was dismissed from Arkansas in late March and has a 369-200 record in 17 seasons at UAB, Missouri and Arkansas. He took each program to three NCAA Tournaments.

Before becoming head coach at UAB, Anderson was an assistant coach for almost two decades under Nolan Richardson and was on the staff of the 1994 national champion and the 1995 runner-up.

He was head coach at Arkansas for eight seasons and received a second contract extension in November 2017 that reportedly paid $2.55 million annually. The Razorbacks never finished under .500 under Anderson and his teams were in three of the past five NCAA Tournaments. The team finished 18-16 and reached the NIT this year before Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek replaced him because the program wasn’t consistently competing for NCAA championships.

Anderson’s first orders of business will be to engage with current players who are contemplating a transfer and to build a coaching staff capable of recruiting the area and the nation. Current Red Storm starters LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron have yet to declare they will return to St. John’s. Shamorie Ponds declared for the NBA Draft, signed with an agent and stands a strong chance of being picked. Justin Simon also declared for the draft and signed with an agent; it’s unlikely, but he might have the option to return.

The university’s interest in Hewitt was intriguing. St. John’s twice sought him as coach during his 11 seasons at Georgia Tech and was turned down both times, when Norm Roberts landed the job in 2004 and when Steve Lavin was hired in 2010. He has a career record of 321-251 at Siena, Georgia Tech and George Mason, where he last coached in 2014-15.

Jones has a 310-273 record in 20 seasons with Yale, won or shared four Ivy League championships and took the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 — when they stunned fifth-seeded Baylor — and this year.

St. John’s announced that Chris Mullin “stepped down” as coach on April 9, and Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley immediately was sought to be his successor. Those negotiations did not end in a deal and he returned to ASU for a contract extension.

St. John’s also interviewed Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser and offered him the position; he opted to remain in Illinois.

Additionally, St. John’s made formal and informal overtures to Iona coach Tim Cluess, Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton and UMBC coach Ryan Odom.

St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg had acknowledged that the program faced some pressures as the search went on — players are signing with colleges, Red Storm players are contemplating their futures and next weekend is the only period in which coaches can do in-person evaluations of recruits — but he insisted that finding the best candidate would be the priority.

Though it’s unclear if conversations with Cluess ever became more than preliminary, he withdrew his name from consideration Thursday morning with a statement texted to Newsday. St. John’s never contacted Iona for permission to speak with him, which is customary in searches.

Cluess, who lives in Floral Park, thanked those who supported the idea of installing him to head the Red Storm in the statement and added, “I am truly blessed to have so many people say so many nice things. . . . I am however taking my name out of consideration for the St. John’s job.

“The chance to help bring back [the] rich tradition in the process made it hard to walk away from . . . There comes a point where the reality of the situation becomes more clear and moving forward is what is needed.”

 With Steven Marcus

 and Jim Baumbach

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