Former St. John's basketball assistant coach Steve DeMeo alleges that he was fired by head coach Mike Anderson for issues related to DeMeo's heart surgery in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday. Besides claiming he was unlawfully terminated after requesting accommodations due to health problems, the lawsuit also alleges players on the Red Storm "nearly revolted" after Anderson lost control of the team late in the 2020-21 season and even threatened to not take the court in the second half of their last game of the regular season, an 81-71 victory vs. Seton Hall.
In the lawsuit, filed against Anderson and St. John's, DeMeo is seeking compensation for damages in relation to lost/future earnings and an award for "emotional pain and suffering and emotional distress" from the lawsuit, among other things.
In July 2020, DeMeo was found to have an irregular heartbeat from a pre-existing heart condition and underwent surgery in late August. He continued to work, even while recovering in the hospital, according to the lawsuit. But when DeMeo returned to the Red Storm's bench, he alleged that Anderson was "lax" in enforcing COVID-19 protocols.
The lawsuit alleges, DeMeo was "abruptly terminated" June 8 in the weeks after DeMeo and Anderson met for a performance review during which Anderson praised DeMeo's recruiting efforts. But, according to the lawsuit, Anderson responded coldly when the discussion turned to DeMeo's health.
St. John's finished the season 16-11 (10-9 Big East) and Anderson won Big East Coach of the Year. But the Red Storm declined an NIT invitation, as the lawsuit alleges the team "simply did not want to play for" Anderson anymore after he told the team that he was going to kick Isaih Moore off the team at halftime of the Red Storm's March 6 game vs. Seton Hall for poor shot selection.
According to the lawsuit, the rest of the team banded together "to protest Mr. Anderson's unjust treatment of Mr. Moore." DeMeo was among those urging Anderson to show restraint and not kick Moore off the team and Anderson relented.
"The public success of the St. John's men's basketball team on the court masked a tumultuous end to the season where Mr. Anderson lost control of the team and the players nearly revolted against him before the end of the season," the lawsuit reads. "Mr. DeMeo helped hold the team together."
St. John's released a statement Thursday afternoon.
"St. John's University and Coach Mike Anderson categorically deny Steve DeMeo's allegations of wrongdoing, but cannot otherwise comment on pending litigation," the statement said.