Yes, it’s a completely new team. Yes, it’s a new league and a new school for him.
But Tobin Anderson won’t let any of these factors diminish expectations for him or Iona University.
“This is not a rebuild, this is a kind of reload,” he told The Post. “People ask me all the time [about our timeframe]. We want to win. I am an extremely competitive person. There’s no timeline for, “Hey, let’s win with this.” [year].’ No, we want to win now.”
“Win the MAAC, go to the NCAA Tournament, win games in the NCAA Tournament,” he said.
No one had any expectations of Anderson last year, either, when he took over a four-win Fairleigh-Dickinson team in his first season as Division I coach.
Not only did he lead the Knights to the NCAA Tournament, but his undersized team also pulled off one of the biggest upsets in March Madness history, becoming only the second No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed by ousting Purdue and Nationals of the year Zach Edey.
That win not only helped him get the job at Iona when Rick Pitino left to take over St. John’s, but it also played a role in recruiting an almost entirely new roster for the Gaels. Anderson, 51, became a national name last March.
His jaunty style was evident and he was attractive.
“Obviously he has a winning formula,” said Idan Tretout, a Harvard graduate and Brooklyn native. “You saw him do it against the highest level last year. He knows what it takes to make it happen. At every training session, at every meeting, he is a very intense guy who has demands. If you don’t meet that standard, we won’t win.
“You get an idea of who Tobin is through March Madness and talking to him in the recruiting process, but there’s a level of intensity that you probably wouldn’t notice until a practice. He’s a dog, man. I haven’t been teased like that in a minute.”
It’s uncertain what the Gaels will be this year, although Anderson said the newness of the roster shouldn’t be an excuse with so many teams dealing with significant turnover in the transfer portal era.
The only player returning from last year’s MAAC regular-season and postseason champions was forward Osborn Shema, the team’s sixth-leading scorer.
Anderson gained experience, bringing in graduates Joel Brown (California), Terrell Williams Jr. (Southern), Wheza Panzo (Stetson) and Tretout.
Whatever happens this year, the new Iona coach is thrilled to be in this position, leading a program that has appeared in eight of the last 11 NCAA Tournaments.
Getting a Division I job wasn’t easy.
Anderson spent nine years at Division II St.
Thomas Aquinas in Sparkill, N.Y., after 12 years as a Division III head coach and a brief stint as an assistant at Siena.
Similar to FDU, Anderson inherited a program reclamation project at St. Thomas Aquinas that was coming off a five-win campaign.
He led them to seven consecutive NCAA Division II tournaments.
But it wasn’t until spring 2022 that he finally got his break.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to athletic directors, recruiting firms, agents, whatever,” Anderson recalled, “and they said, ‘Man, you’re doing great. “We’re just not going to hire a Division II coach.”
He thought he might never get the chance to move up.
Anderson had no interest in taking an assistant job at the Division I level again, as some suspected it might help.
Before FDU, the closest he came to a Division I job was, ironically, at Iona.
He was the Gaels’ first-round pick before Pitino emerged as an option in 2020.
When the Hall of Fame coach left last March, Anderson was the clear choice.
On the Monday morning after the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Anderson and Iona President Seamus Carey spoke on the phone.
The deal was finalized in the afternoon.
“Here you kind of feel like we should be pretty good. There’s a reason why certain programs win, and it’s not just because of the coaches and players,” Anderson said. “There are supporters around you, there are resources, there is commitment from our president to our athletic director, the supporters. All of this is important.
“Before [Tim] Guess they’ve won here forever. There are things you can win. That’s great because honestly, this is the first job I’ve had where that’s been the case.”