Former St. John's Coach Steve DeMeo Alleges Wrongful Termination in Federal Lawsuit

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2021

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 20:  Head coach Mike Anderson of the St. John's Red Storm talks to his team during a college basketball game against the DePaul Blue Demons at Carnesecca Arena on February 20, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images)
St. John's head men's basketball coach Mike Anderson was named in the lawsuit. (Credit: Porter Binks/Getty Images)

Former St. John's assistant men's basketball coach Steve DeMeo filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit against the school and Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson on Thursday.

DeMeo, who was fired in June, alleged his dismissal came after he informed Anderson he'd need time off because of further medical procedures related to a heart condition, a mitral valve prolapse, that previously required surgery to fix an irregular heartbeat.

"There were still procedures that needed to be done. I got the sense that when I told [Anderson] that, things went south," DeMeo told Kevin Sweeney of Sports Illustrated. "He didn't want to accommodate me, it didn't sound like."

The longtime Division I assistant said he was fired "abruptly" after informing Anderson of the upcoming medical procedures during a performance review in May. He alleged the St. John's head coach replied, "Well, you have a job to do; you have to do it."

DeMeo, who's since been hired as an assistant at East Carolina, told Sweeney the situation made him "feel sick to my stomach," and he felt the lawsuit was his only option.

"I'm not a litigious person," he said. "There has been a lot of pressure on me just to move forward, but I feel like I have to do it, and they can't be allowed to treat people this way."

Neither the St. John's athletic department nor Anderson has commented on the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, DeMeo's lawsuit also detailed a rocky 2020-21 season for the Red Storm, which included multiple instances in which the players were prepared to boycott after Anderson threatened to kick Isaih Moore off the roster.

Moore was one of seven players who transferred following last season, and DeMeo's court filings said the program was forced to turn down an invitation to the postseason NIT because players "simply did not want to play for" Anderson anymore, per Sweeney.

"Mr. Anderson lost control of the team, and the players nearly revolted against him before the end of the season," the lawsuit stated. "Mr. DeMeo helped hold the team together."

Anderson, who's guided the Red Storm to a 33-26 record across two seasons, signed a six-year contract extension through the 2026-27 college basketball season in May.

"We are beyond thrilled with Coach Anderson's leadership and the trajectory on which he has put our program," athletic director Mike Cragg said. "I think I speak for everyone in the St. John's community when I say that we look forward to having both Coach and Marcheita as leading members of our Red Storm family for years to come."

St. John's tips off the new season Nov. 9 when it hosts Mississippi Valley State at Carnesecca Arena.