By Jason Rich ’98
The Siena men’s basketball team has a completely new look, and that’s not a bad thing.
The future rests in the inimitable hands of Jimmy Patsos. The Saints’ new leader laughed and cried during an animated April 3 press conference and pep rally as he formally assumed control of a job he admired throughout his transformative career at rival Loyola.
“I was jealous for nine years,” Patsos said. “I always really wanted to coach here. It starts with the fans and the players. In two days, I could feel why (Siena) wins so much: you’re all in.”
Patsos turned former MAAC member Loyola from a one-win laughingstock to a perennial conference championship contender during his nine years in Baltimore. His teams reflect his personality. They play with intense passion, fearless pace and refreshing unpredictability.
“I just want to run, press and score,” Patsos said. “I like ‘first-team-to-80-wins.’ And there’s going to be some bumps in the road when you play like that. But that’s OK. My mother kept telling me to get on the merry-go-round, and I got on the rollercoaster every time.”
Siena was regularly the top scoring team in the MAAC when it enjoyed the greatest run of any team in conference history under Fran McCaffery from 2008-2010, winning the league all three years and taking down Vanderbilt (2008) and Ohio State (2009) in the NCAA Tournament.
Patsos’ charge is to rebuild Siena to those recent glory years, and re-establish the program as one of the nation’s elite Mid Major powers. He didn’t take long rebuilding the roster – there are eight new faces on this year’s roster, including five of his Loyola recruits and highly touted transfer student Patrick Cole (Coppin State) who will sit out this season per NCAA rules.