Tobin Anderson has agreed to a five-year contract to be the new coach at Iona, leaving Fairleigh Dickinson after one sun-kissed year there. He spoke to ESPN about the move and the whirlwind week after No. 16 seeded FDU beat Texas Southern in the First Four and upset No. 1 Purdue in a historic NCAA tournament game. Anderson, 51, spent 21 seasons as a Division II and Division III head coach before getting the job at FDU last year. As he replaces Rick Pitino at Iona in one of the country's top mid-major jobs, he spoke to ESPN in his first interview after taking the job about his journey here.
What's the last week been like?
It's been almost like an out-of-body experience. I haven't had a chance to get myself back grounded and to square one. We played so well, and that's a credit to the staff and players. It kind of got started with the win over Texas Southern and the postgame speech. If we just won a game in the First Four, great. People will know. We didn't really want to say that about Purdue, but that got the whole thing started. How we handled all the attention -- we beat Purdue and CBS cameras are with us behind-the-scenes. All the attention, and we handled it.
For me personally, the next day I'm on "Good Morning America," "College GameDay" and then the "Today" show. I never would have fathomed this. We're laughing this morning, my wife and kids. The things I say about going fishing, the way I talk [are everywhere]. My kids are teenagers and on TikTok and they're sending me TikToks.
The whole world has changed. It's the great thing about NCAA tournament. For FDU and the people here, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The run was incredible, maybe the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. The guys handled themselves just amazing. It's a little bit surreal. I'm sure, in a month or two months when things finally settle in at Iona, we'll enjoy it more. We've enjoyed it, but it comes at you like you're drinking out of a fire hydrant.
Welcome to #GaelNation, Tobin Anderson!— Iona Men's Basketball (@IonaGaelsMBB) March 21, 2023
We are excited to announce the appointment of @andersontobin as the 15th head coach in #Iona men's basketball history!#MAACHoops @ionauniversity @IonaGaels
📖: https://t.co/o1xQKnajcY pic.twitter.com/8d7SU9Jhwv
How quickly did things come together with Iona?
We got home from Columbus at 4 a.m. after playing Sunday night and I slept about a half-hour and then was on the "Today" show. When I got home, I got a Diet Coke and sat on the couch. I looked at my phone. There was a text form the Iona president (Seamus Carey), "When is a good time to talk?" He called me and within a half-hour I was in the mix. I slept a little bit last night. Thank God. But that's the way world works. I'm excited about the opportunity.
I was a finalist last time for the job (in 2020) and I think it helped a lot. I think I knew at the time, I think I knew Rick Pitino was the main target and I was the back-up plan. If they get a chance to hire Coach Pitino, it's probably going to happen. But going through the process, meeting Dr. Carey and (athletic director) Matt Glovaski, it gave me a feel for them. I felt good about them. They were interested in what I'd done as a coach. They really respected my Division II and DIII background and thought I'd be a good fit for them and if something ever happened there'd be an opportunity.
You were impassioned after the first four about the amount of talent in DII and DIII coaches. What's the feedback been like from them?
So cool. So cool. I've had so many DIII and DII and high school coaches reach out -- JV coaches in Missouri. They were so thankful for me saying there's great coaches out there. I believe that. My dad (Steve Anderson) was a high school coach. He was the best coach I've been around. There's great coaching a lot of places out there. It's about getting an opportunity. I knew that if I got an opportunity, I had to be ready. My dad told me a long time ago -- someday you'll get a shot, make sure you are ready.
My quote about great coaching at all levels after Texas Southern, people have copied and pasted that to me, so many DIII and DII guys. If I could champion their cause, I'm happy, because I do feel that way. Most of my friends are DII and DIII coaches. I'm more apt on a Tuesday night to watch a DII game online than an ACC game. My buddy coaches at Oswego State, and I'd rather watch them play SUNY Brockport than Duke play NC State. So many of my old players and coaches came out to Columbus, it meant the world to me.
How hard was it to leave FDU after only one year?
That's probably the hardest part. That's very hard. Brad Hurlbut, the athletic director here is terrific. He's a great person. So is Jason Young, the associate athletic director. It's hard because this happened, and I also think what we've done here was pretty special, and that's a credit to the staff, players and administration. We put FDU on the map, and it's going to be here forever.
I thought we'd win here, but it would take three or four years and it's OK to leave when you are somewhere three or four years. We sped the process way up faster. The way the profession works, you have to take advantage of it. I wish the timing was different and we had more time to enjoy what just happened. Iona has to move quick, too, and you're trying to keep the players there. It's fast. When I called Brad and Jason about this, they were happy for me. They told me: "You have to go." I felt nothing (negative). They were happy as heck for me. That made me feel better too.
Iona has made 8 of the past 11 tournaments. How excited are you to live up to those standards?
I'm really excited. You want to be at a place with expectations. When you get a sniff at the tournament, when you get a feel for how special that is to go there and play, to win a couple games and move on, you want to get back there.
Iona is a place where they're used to going to the NCAA tournament and having success. I want to try and go there and win a game and go to the Sweet 16, and there's resources there to do that. The tradition and facilities they have, they've won for a long time - Tim Cluess, Kevin Willard, Jeff Ruland and Tim Welsh. I have unbelievable respect for the tradition of Iona and also for the future. There's an expectation to win. I also have an expectation to win. I'm bringing most of my staff with me. I want to go there and go to the NCAA tournament and advance. That's the next step. (Iona's lone NCAA win came under Jim Valvano in 1980). You want to go somewhere and do something that's never been before. There's that carrot out there.