Saints turn to a fiery rival Jimmy Patsos
Jimmy Patsos has always said he is a fan of the Capital Region.
He proved it in the most substantial way on Tuesday by agreeing to become the new head coach of the Siena men’s basketball team.
The 46-year-old from Boston has been a familiar presence on the Times Union Center sideline for the last nine seasons as the head coach at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Loyola.
He’ll move to the other end of the floor for 2013-14, replacing Mitch Buonaguro after three losing seasons, the most recent of which ended with an 8-24 record that matched the program record for losses in a season.
Siena has scheduled a variety of introductory events today, starting with a 12:30 p.m. video interview that can be watched on www.-SienaSaints.com, followed by a press conference in the Alumni Recreation Center lobby at 3:30.
The school will hold an introductory pep rally for students and fans in the ARC gym at 5.
The flamboyant Patsos has become known for his ferocious and quirky sideline antics, but also for a steady progression of success in the MAAC after inheriting a 1-27 team and turning it into a MAAC tournament champion in 2012.
It’s that sort of resurrection the Saints are looking for now, after a string of three straight NCAA tournament appearances, followed by three straight losing seasons under Buonaguro, the last of which was also the worst.
Patsos, who will become the 16th head coach in program history, was offered the job by athletic director John D’Argenio on Tuesday, after interviewing on campus on Monday.
The other finalists who came to Loudonville were Mike Rhoades, an assistant to Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth, and Andy Toole, the head coach at Robert Morris, which just knocked off Kentucky in the NIT.
D’Argenio also interviewed Mike Wells, an assistant at George Mason under former Siena head coach Paul Hewitt.
Patsos was a long-time assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland and was on the staff when the Terrapins won the national championship in 2002.
His teams at Loyola were a combined 47-21 the last two seasons, including a win in his most recent appearance at the Times Union Center, an 80-57 dismantling of Siena on Feb. 16 that was one of the Saints’ worst losses of the season.
As usual, Patsos, long a proponent of holding the MAAC tournament in Albany even though Loyola wouldn’t have a homecourt advantage, expressed admiration for the area.
“At a place like Siena, expectations are really high, and what he tries to do is win by any means necessary,” graduating senior forward O.D. Anosike said. “His style and demeanor are unorthodox, but it’ll resonate in a couple of years.
“He’s definitely somebody who’s a journeyman with a lot of experience, and an intensity and will to win that are unparalleled. He’s
fiery and intense, but always with the best intentions.”
“Unorthodox” is putting it mildly, considering some of Patsos’ exploits, most notably his strategy in a 2008 game against Davidson in which he assigned two players to guard high-scoring Stephen Curry for the entire game, leaving his other three Greyhounds to defend four players.
Curry stood in the corner and didn’t score a point, and Davidson won by 30.
Patsos was quoted afterward, “We had to play against an NBA player tonight. Anybody else held him scoreless? I’m a history major. They’re going to remember that we held him scoreless or that we lost by 30? I know the fans are mad at me, but I had to roll the dice, as far as a coach goes. I’m not some rookie coach.”
Patsos also climbed into the stands and sat with his school president during a game to avoid getting a technical foul from officials he was not pleased with, and he’s known for tirades against his players, although he appeared to have mellowed some during the Feb. 16 game.
His first team at Loyola, following a 1-27 season that got former UAlbany coach Scott Hicks fired, went 6-22, and Patsos had losing seasons in 2008-09 (12-20) and 2009-10 (13-17), but his teams the last two seasons were some of the best in the MAAC.
“I think it’s a good thing for the school and the program,” Anosike said. “He can come in with an influx of talent.
“His teams have always played tremendously hard, and always with great focus on the defensive end. There’s no denying that it’ll be a lot different for my guys. I think it’ll be a more up-tempo style on offense, and pressing a lot more on defense than we did.”
Anosike is close friends with the Greyhounds’ Erik Etherly, and although they hadn’t spoken since the news of the hire broke, “generally speaking, he’s had great things to say about coach Patsos,” Anosike said. “To be honest, he gets after you, but he’s also one of the best friends and supporters you’re going to have [according to Etherly].”
As with any coaching change, roster flux will be a crucial element of the transition.
Patsos inherits a team with just one departing senior, Anosike, no juniors and a heavy load of sophomores, considering Rakeem Brookins and Trenity Burdine red-shirted in 2011-12 and have two years of eligibility left.
Patsos’ recruiting base is in Maryland and Washington, D.C., which could send an echo back to the turnaround that Fran McCaffery performed when he brought Kenny Hasbrouck to Loudonville.
The two incoming freshmen are Troy High School forward Javion Ogunyemi and 6-foot-1 guard Stephan Jiggetts from Bishop McNamara in Maryland.
They’re signed National Letters of Intent, but can ask for releases (which are almost never denied by schools) now that there has been a coaching change.