After a season when Siena won 20 games and a College Basketball Invitational tournament championship, it appeared that everything was looking up for the Saints in Jimmy Patsos’ second season.
Which is why it might be unusual that the 20 is on the other side of the ledger this season, as the Saints finished 11-20 and exited in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament to the top seeded Iona Gaels on Sunday. However it was not without a fight, even in a game they never led, to say Siena had them on the ropes would be an understatement.
Given how the Siena program was on the ropes through an up and down season, Patsos’ team did not give in. They did not give in when they lost Imoh Silas for the season to an ACL tear, Brett Bisping to a broken toe or when Pat Cole transferred out of the program after half a season. Siena’s defense suffered without their two starting big men from last season, but they adjusted and never showed quit for a coach whose sideline demeanor is his way of pulling to inch out every win he can.
“I thought today was kind of like our season and this year, about halfway through the year, we weren’t having much fun,” Patsos said. “I thought Evan [Hymes] and Rob [Poole] did a great job, especially Evan, saying let’s have some fun. Let’s just get it together and do what we have to do and we won a few, and then we also sort of got it together.”
The head coach of the Saints in his second season did some adjusting to say the least, frequently changing lineups, working freshman Jimmy Paige in the rotation late into the year, and it appeared to click at times and at other times games slipped away in the final minutes. Siena closed to within three on top seeded Iona multiple times, but the Gaels came back each time to close out the Saints’ chances.
“Instead of saying forget it, we stuck together,” Patsos said. “I’m proud of this team. I’m really proud, they’re good people.”
“Our GPA’s are in control, everything’s doing fine, now we just need to find a way to win a few more games. We’re going to miss Rob Poole and Evan Hymes because they were good in practice every day.”
Perhaps winning the CBI became a hindrance on Patsos’ rebuilding of the program, playing 41 games in Patsos’ first season – even before counting a summer trip to Canada. However, the second year head coach bragged that it will be something that they can never take away from seniors like Hymes and Poole.
“It’s a good place and we’re working on some things to make it a better program, but the Times Union part is all set,” Patsos said. “We’re just going to keep building.”
If this qualifies as a step back, battling through injuries the way they did and giving the top seed all they could handle, then Patsos’ rebuild is right on schedule.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.