As Jeff Van Gundy’s former 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 following four underperforming seasons. Anderson still 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 are in the men’s basketball program to meet all university academic requirements,” according to the termination letter obtained by ESPN.
Anderson denied the claims and is taking St. John’s to arbitration over the matter.
“St. John’s should stop trumping up some charges against Mike Anderson and pay him his money,” Van Gundy told The Post in a phone interview Saturday morning. “You saw Connecticut do it with Kevin Ollie, and they ultimately had to pay. If you’re an upstanding institution, you should 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 attempted to fire him for cause.
Three different St. John’s players — Rafael Pinzon, Andre Curbelo and Dylan Addae-Wusu — were suspended at different points last season due to disciplinary issues.
Sources told The Post’s Zach Braziller that the culture under Anderson the past few years deteriorated, and that major academic issues with several players contributed to the for-cause firing.
Van Gundy served as an assistant coach under Pitino at Providence, and the pair reached the 1987 Final Four together.
“He’s gonna win, and win big,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a tremendous coach, obviously. I think it’s a great hire by St. John’s. The level of enthusiasm he has to still coach and teach and win at the highest level is remarkable.”