When Jimmy Patsos first got hired, I reached out to Mike Lonergan at George Washington while writing a profile about the first-year Siena head coach. During the course of Patsos’ first season with the Saints, one quote of Lonergan’s stuck with me every time I watched Patsos talk at a press conference, at a game or when I talked to him over the phone.
“He’s a really smart guy, a lot smarter than people think,” Lonergan said towards the end of our interview last April. “Everything he does, there’s a method to his madness as Jack Bruen would always say.”
The late Bruen, coached Lonergan and Patsos during his time at Catholic University. Yes, Patsos may be the coach who decided to go to extreme measures to hold Stephen Curry down at Loyola (MD) and he demonstrated the propensity for the same this year: burning all five of his timeouts in the first half of Siena’s Old Spice Classic game against Memphis.
However, to anyone who considers Patsos an energetic buffoon, the Saints’ turn around this season can be attributed to how much the coach’s energy forces guys to want to battle for him. While he’s sliding on the ground during the second half near the coaches box he’s really making sure his players bring the right amount of energy to battle for almost every win.
While Lonergan’s other guarantee – that Patsos would have attendance doubled at Siena in his first season – did not statistically come true, fans have started to pack the Times Union Center. Those same fans followed the Saints to Springfield, MA and on Saturday they packed the MassMutual Center so much so that the game felt like a Siena home game.
Most of the time Patsos is battling his players to push them to one point past the point of winning. As he told me earlier in the year, “I play 32 games where I don’t know if I’m going to win any one of them,” and it’s that recognition of trying to inch ahead in every single game that gives him that patented intensity.
In my first look at his coaching for Siena at Fairfield, it was clear he knew how to push the buttons of all of his players. Sophomore Brett Bisping said during the season that Patsos and his staff judge how much each player could handle and knows it’s part of the game.
“If someone has to get yelled at, they’re not going to hold back, but I mean we all get yelled at we all take our share, we all deserve it when it happens, but that’s just part of basketball,” Bisping said earlier in the season. “I mean, if you can’t handle it then you shouldn’t be playing college basketball, I guess.”
Patsos encourages that toughness and got Siena’s juniors Rob Poole and Evan Hymes to buy in right away, even if for Hymes it meant a different role.
“Rob Poole bought in from the day that I got the job,” Patsos said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be fun, we’re going to press, and we’re going to run.'”
Even up on Fairfield in late January, looking for as they said “their first road win of 2014,” Patsos was battling his players to defend, screaming “Stance!” multiple times during the second half hoping his team could enough stops to pull out a win.
During every game Patsos makes sure he’s motivating the right players, like Bisping during the first half of the MAAC tournament quarterfinal against Canisius. The sophomore, sitting on the bench, saw Lavon Long make a drive to the basket and almost instantaneously turned to Bisping sitting next to his assistant coaches, pointed at him and spent a good five seconds talking to him. Likely on why Bisping wouldn’t make that play. Bisping scored 14 of his career-high 22 points in the second half.
“Coach always stays on me during the games because I think, he knows for some reason, I play better,” Bisping said after scoring that career-high. “Everything he says to me is try to make me play better. I think that’s his only goal.”
During timeouts, the team appears to take a different tone. Sometimes it is Patsos getting into one of his players faces, but many times it’s his assistants or it’s quiet encouragement of how they turned from an eight-win team to reach the fifth seed.
“In those huddles, half the time we’re not even yelling, we’re just saying, ‘Isn’t it worth it?’ or ‘Look how far we’ve come, let’s go, a little farther,'” Patsos said noting his cultural dynamic for this team, as he showed them “The Shawshank Redemption” among other films and adventures over the course of the season. “I’m asking them to try hard, they want me to try hard and you get into an emotional game, look I was calm early, but I thought we might lose by 30.”
It’s hard to imagine a player who would not want to run into a brick wall for Patsos at Siena and it appears it will continue. Considering Siena will have home court advantage for the next three seasons at the MAAC tournament, expectations will be high for the roster that pieced together the fifth-place finish. However in year two, Patsos said his biggest concern is guarding against complacency. He pointed to how his freshmen, Marquis Wright and Lavon Long, need to improve despite all of their accolades this season. He also pointed to Maurice White and said that using Michael Wolfe helped him learn what he needs to work on instead of redshirting him.
“We were in it, to have the lead, it’s turnover here and there and then a playing it out and letting them lay it in, that was disappointing,” Patsos said about the end of the quarterfinal against Canisius. “We do a lot of situations, but we still make the same mistakes. If we keep doing that, we will stay, we won’t go to the next level. That’s definitely not guaranteed. I’m concerned about it.”
Patsos though will certainly use all his energy trying to make it happen.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and America East conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.
One thought on “Siena’s Jimmy Patsos Won’t Quit Pushing Saints Forward”
Jimmy Can coach!! He showed it as one of Gary Williams assistants at Maryland…he showed it again at Loyola…and he will get the job done at Siena. Like Jimmy says, if the players follow his lead, believe in what he’s doing, fight to the end the way Jimmy did as a player, all will be well.
Jimmy Patsos is one of the good guys in college coaching!