Siena men's basketball: Patsos brings new players, style
It’s time to make the donuts.
Jimmy Patsos worked a shift at the Albany Dunkin’ Donuts on Wednesday, the sort of promotional stunt that comes with the territory for a Siena men’s basketball coach. Patsos certainly has the personality for it.
But on Friday, the fluffy concoction with the hole in the middle finally will come out of the oven, ready for Patsos’ particular brand of attention-grabbing frosting and sprinkles.
Patsos has been assembling a Saints team that won’t look much like the one that finished 8-24 last year — new coach, mostly new players and a new approach that will get its first test when Siena opens the 2013-14 season against UAlbany at 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center.
The void was created when O.D. Anosike, the leading Division I rebounder in the country the last two seasons, graduated.
And Siena’s proud program suffered one of the worst seasons in team history, leading to the firing of head coach Mitch Buonaguro.
Now, Patsos, the coach at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Loyola for the last nine seasons, will try to get Siena back on track in his own inimitable sideline-stalking style.
“I’m not just here to coach the team, I’m here to kind of rebuild the thing,” he said two weeks ago. “And that’s different. That’s why the sleepless nights.”
The top returnees on the roster include junior small forward Rob Poole and junior shooting guard Evan Hymes, who has been recovering from a broken hand but has participated in full practice with a pad on it this week.
The rest are a collection of parts, some of them freshmen who followed Patsos to Siena after having committed to Loyola, that the coach hopes to turn into a deep bench that plays fast most of the time.
Known for his intense sideline antics and stream-of-consciousness media sessions, Patsos has re-
energized the fan base and seems to have been embraced by the players, some of whom were unsure of what to expect.
“He demands a lot, but he also gives a lot back, too,” Poole said. “He always talks about how there are givers and there are takers, and he’s a giver and that’s what he wants us to do as a team. His practices are intense, he gets into you, but he cares about you, so it’s been a great experience playing for him.”
As a measure of roster turnover, the starting lineup is expected to include three freshmen, point guard Marquis Wright, power forward Lavon Long and 6-foot-8 Troy High graduate Javion Ogunyemi.
Patsos said on Tuesday that he’s more interested in who finishes games than who starts, though, so holdovers Brett Bisping, Imoh Silas, Ryan Oliver and Rich Audu will get time on the court.
The Saints found out on Tuesday that Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole, one of their best players in the preseason, was denied a waiver of the NCAA transfer rules, so he’ll practice but won’t play this season.
Michael Wolfe, a 6-9 freshman, was considered for a redshirt year, but will play.
Patsos likes his roster, despite some lingering uncertainty about roles, and is willing to have some patience with the younger players.
The 6-0 Wright, who led North Point to three straight Maryland 4A East Region titles, gives the Saints their first true pass-first point guard since Ronald Moore graduated.
“Marquis came here to play,” Patsos said. “Lavon Long is good. Everyone’s going to make mistakes. They’re young and athletic.
“It’s a heavy job, but I think I can handle it,” Wright said. “My team has my back, that’s all I know. If I’m doing good or doing bad, I know they’re behind my back to pick me up.”
“From the first time I saw him, he’s always been a great passer, and he has a lot of composure on the court,” Hymes said. “Really, he’s been real persistent with what he’s doing.”
The 5-foot-8 Hymes was a question mark to start the season after breaking a metacarpal in his left, non-shooting hand during the five-game exhibition tour of Montreal.
Known for deep three-pointers and prone to turnovers last season — his 122 led the team — Hymes should benefit from the presence of Wright.
“Evan’s pretty interesting,” Patsos said. “I talked to him and told him, you’ve either got to shoot it or make the easy pass. No more spectacular plays.
“I like that we have Evan back, but he has a lot to prove. He’s practiced really well. Sure, he’s small playing the two guard, but they have to guard him, too.”
Siena’s young team faces a difficult 11-game non-conference schedule that includes nine road games.
They’ll begin the MAAC regular season with the annual western New York swing to Niagara and Canisius on Dec. 6 and 8.
“This is the Love Boat here,” Patsos said. “Siena is a beautiful place. We don’t do the battles here in Loudonville, we get on a boat and meet these people on an island and play. I didn’t make the [non-conference] schedule, and that’s OK. It’s about the MAAC. That’s what matters.
“The thing I’m more worried about is freshman mistakes, because you have to live with those. We’re going to play fast and make mistakes. But when we get to the MAAC, for 20 games, our freshmen will have played a lot.”
Friday — UALBANY, 7 p.m.; 12 — at Vermont, 7; 16 — at La Salle, 3; 19 — ST. BONAVENTURE, 7; 22 — at Cornell, 7; 24 — at Purdue (Old Spice Classic), noon; 28 — vs. Memphis (Old Spice Classic at Orlando, Fla.), 6:30; vs. LSU/Saint Joseph’s (Old Spice Classic at Orlando, Fla.), 5:30/8.
1 — TBA (Old Spice Classic at Orlando, Fla.); 6 — at Niagara, 7; 8 — at Canisius, 2; 23 — HOFSTRA, 7; 30 — FORDHAM, 7.
2 — at Monmouth, 7; 4 — RIDER, 7; 10 — MARIST, 7; 12 — IONA, 2; 16 — at Manhattan, 7; 19 — at Iona, 5; 23 — SAINT PETER’S, 7; 26 — at Fairfield, noon; 30 — NIAGARA, 8:30.
1 — QUINNIPIAC, 7; 7 — at Saint Peter’s, 7; 10 — FAIRFIELD, 7; 14 — at Marist, 7/8; 16 — CANISIUS, 2; 21 — MANHATTAN, 7/8; 23 — at Rider, 2; 27 — at Quinnipiac, 8:30.
2 — MONMOUTH, 2; 6-10 — MAAC tournament, TBD.
Home games in CAPS.