Former St. John’s coach Mike Anderson, who was fired and replaced by Rick Pitino in March, is suing the university, seeking $45.6 million in damages.
Anderson, who posted an overall 68-56 record (.548-win percentage) over his four-year stint at St. John’s, believes he was fired for cause as an excuse to avoid paying his remaining salary ($11.4 million), saving money that would ultimately go toward Pitino’s six-year, $20-million contract.
After declining a buyout for less than his original salary, St. John’s fired Anderson on March 10th, citing a “failure to create and support an environment that strongly encourages student-athletes to meet all university academic requirements,” “actions that brought serious discredit to the school” and a “failure to appropriately supervise and communicate with assistant coaches” as reasons for his termination. Anderson and his representation have dismissed the claims as “fictitious,” perpetuating a false narrative to avoid paying his full compensation.
“St. John’s manufactured out of whole cloth it’s preposterous ‘for cause’ termination of Mr. Anderson’s employment with the sole purpose of attempting to extricate the University from its $11.4 million ironclad contractual obligation to Mr. Anderson, specifically so that it could otherwise divert those funds to Pitino,” Anderson’s attorney John Singer wrote in a court filing obtained by ESPN’s Myron Metcalf.
Singer further alluded to the school’s hypocrisy in arbitration documents, noting Pitino’s own controversial past including a sex scandal that led to his firing from Louisville in 2017. A two-time Division I champion (though the NCAA vacated his 2013 title over recruitment violations), Pitino returns to the Big East after spending his last three seasons at Iona, compiling a 64-22 record with two conference championships in that span. Anderson, 63, had previously coached at Arkansas, qualifying for the NCAA tournament three times in eight seasons.
[ESPN, CBS Sports]