ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy slams SJU dismissal
As former Jeff Van Gundy boss Rick Pitino takes over at St. John’s, he sees an injustice surrounding the team’s predecessor.
Pitino left Iona to become the Johnnies’ new head coach last week after St. John’s fired Mike Anderson after four underperforming seasons. Anderson had four years and $10 million left on his contract, but St. John’s fired him for cause, which would allow the school to avoid paying him much of that salary.
St. John’s claimed Anderson failed to “create and support an environment that strongly encourages student-athletes who participate in the men’s basketball program to meet all university academic requirements,” according to the termination letter obtained by ESPN. .
Anderson has denied the claims and is taking St. John’s to arbitration over it.
“St. John’s should stop making up charges against Mike Anderson and pay him his money,” Van Gundy told The Post in a Saturday morning phone interview. “You’ve seen Connecticut do it with Kevin Ollie, and they eventually had to pay. If you are an institution with integrity, you must fulfill your contractual obligations.”
Ollie coached UConn for six seasons and won his arbitration against the Huskies last year, earning $11.2 million after the program tried to fire him for cause.
Three different St. John’s players — Rafael Pinzon, Andre Curbelo and Dylan Addae-Wusu — were suspended at different times last season due to disciplinary issues.
Sources told The Post’s Zach Braziller that the culture under Anderson has deteriorated in recent years and that major academic issues with several players contributed to the dismissal for cause.
Van Gundy was an assistant coach under Pitino at Providence, and the pair reached the 1987 Final Four together.
“He’s going to win, and win big,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a terrific coach, obviously. I think he’s a great recruit by St. John’s. The level of enthusiasm he shows to always coach, teach and win at the highest level is remarkable.
New York Post