ESPN Events: Jimmy Patsos

Siena's Patsos a fireball of emotions

December, 2, 2013
On the court, Siena coach Jimmy Patsos is a fireball of emotions, bellowing instruction, praise and frustration at his players, keeping a fervent pace along the sideline for 40 minutes. In the postgame news conference after the Saints’ third and final loss Sunday night in the Old Spice Classic at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., he was practically a one-man standup act – frank criticisms laced with self-deprecation that inspired chuckles across the room. But tucked within the tough persona is a passionate man whose embrace of the Siena College basketball tradition is obvious.

Patsos and the Saints came into this three-day tournament knowing that they would face a stout level of competition, and with realistic expectations. Nonetheless, Siena (2-7) led Purdue (6-2) by 13 points going into the half and was in the driver’s seat until the last minute, but Purdue would pull ahead with less than a minute to go to win it 68-63.

On hanging with the Old Spice Classic competition:

“For our resources and for being a MAAC team and coming off an 8-24 season, I just thought this was kind of a field that we probably were going to struggle to compete with, yet we did (compete). Siena basketball tradition’s rich. I think the Siena tradition is why we played so well today – but we were a little bit undermanned talent-wise.”

On frustrations with young players against Purdue:

“We said, ‘They’re flying at you. Shot fake, he’s going to go by you. One dribble, pull up. Now the other big comes up. If you miss we’ll get the rebound and lay it in.’ Guy takes two threes in a row and looks at me, ‘Hey, sorry I missed.’ Sorry you missed? I’m going to die at 51 now instead of 60.”

On the solid first half, and finishing:

“It’s about 40 minutes. Paul Sorvino taught me, ‘You don’t pay for halftime.’ It’s from a movie. It’s not about halftime, it’s about 40 minutes. And I can take 36 or 38 or whatever, and we played some good minutes, but you’ve got to close it out; that’s a Big Ten team. We’re young, we’ve got to grow up, I understand that. But my whole process is we have a great process here at Siena, we’re working hard to restore that and we’re playing hard.”

On the team’s busy schedule:

“We like to compete. Unfortunately now I feel like a football coach because I have to wait six days to compete, usually you wait three days. We’re getting a little tired, you know that’s three games in four days, it’s a high level of play for us.”

On the Saints’ 23 fouls:

“Bad coaching by me – they got a little physical with us. We played zone and once again, our foul trouble – we know this isn’t Day One in terms of what’s going on with refereeing. You can’t just put your hands on guys. In the second half, Rob Poole runs into the screen. A lot of contact in the old days was – you could hit a guy, and the ref would be like, ‘You’ve gotta take your hand off.’ That’s fine. Now they have to call these fouls, and it’s going to help the game in the long run, I believe that. It’s just, it stinks while you’re one of the teams getting a lot of fouls called on you. Kids today, man. I’ve got 18- to 22-year-olds bouncing my paycheck up and down the court. I don’t advise you take that route in life.”

On responding to losses:

“We’re fine. There was a little heated exchange right now in the locker room – at some point losses have to bother you. I have great support. We’re all in this together, Siena’s a great program and we’re all in this together. And we all know that we’re trying and we’re digging ourselves out and we have some young guys. But at some point you’ve got to win. That was a winnable game – I take responsibility as the coach that we didn’t win it, but I want a win as bad for Siena basketball because I’m the coach. I’m just disappointed today.”

Told you he was entertaining.

New coaches, new expectations

October, 4, 2013

Jimmy Patsos (pictured) has a spotlight on him, and only a handful of coaches around the country know how he feels. The former head coach at Loyola (Md.) is now the head man at Siena, replacing Mitch Buonaguro. One of the most difficult duties of coaches whose teams play in ESPN Events' early-season tournaments is scouting the opposition. There's plenty of player turnover on nearly every team from a season ago. And there are just a few game tapes from this season to develop a game plan. It's even more difficult if you're facing a school with a new coach. While the number of coaching changes this past offseason was down from previous years, there are still 46 Division I schools with new staffs. Four of those teams, including Patsos', play in ESPN Events' tournaments. Here's a look at the new guys:

Butler: The move nobody—except Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge—saw coming. When Ainge nabbed Brad Stevens to be the Celtics' new coach, NBA observers were stunned. So was the college basketball world. The Bulldogs moved quickly to promote assistant Brandon Miller, who had just been hired in April after spending a year on Illinois' staff. The 34-year-old Miller, a Butler graduate in his first head coaching job, convinced the six incoming freshmen to stay at the school.

That's important because Butler has just two seniors and top returning scorer and rebounder Roosevelt Jones is out for the season with an injured wrist. Miller, who spent six years as an assistant under former Butler coach Thad Matta at Ohio State, was able to get some extra work with his team this summer during a 10-day, four-game trip to Australia. But that's also when Roosevelt was injured.

Miller, who opened practice last weekend, faces a challenge, and then some. Not only are the Bulldogs moving to the Big East this season, they play in the stacked Old Spice Classic Nov. 28-Dec. 1. Butler opens against Washington State in an event that includes Memphis, Oklahoma State, Saint Joseph's, LSU, Purdue and Siena.

Cal State Fullerton: Dedrique Taylor is another first-year head coach. Taylor replaced interim coach Andy Newman, who had taken over for Bob Burton. Taylor had worked as an assistant at Arizona State since Herb Sendek was hired there in 2006. Before that, the 39-year-old Taylor was on the staffs at Nevada, Portland State, Loyola Marymount and UC Davis, where he played.

Known as an elite recruiter with ties to the Los Angeles area, Taylor will try to stockpile talent in Fullerton and improve a team that went 14-18 overall last season, including 6-12 in the Big West. Not only is it a homecoming of sorts for the Pomona, Calif., native, Taylor could face his old boss in the Wooden Legacy Nov. 28-Dec. 1. The Titans are set to play Marquette in the first round on Thanksgiving, but also in the field is Sendek and Arizona State. The rest of the tournament includes College of Charleston, Creighton, George Washington, Miami and San Diego State.

New Mexico: The guy with the best nickname of all the new coaches around the country has to be Craig "Noodles" Neal. The 49-year-old was promoted when Steve Alford left for UCLA. Neal, a close friend of Alford, had worked under him at Iowa and for the past six seasons at New Mexico. Neal, who was a finalist a year ago for the head job at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, will take over a Lobos program on the rise. Neal lost Tony Snell early to the NBA, but reigning Mountain West player of the year Kendall Williams is back for his senior season. All-conference second team center Alex Kirk returns, too, from a club that went 29-6 last season.

Neal and the Lobos head East to play in the Charleston Classic Nov. 21-24 on the South Carolina coast. New Mexico plays UAB in the first round. Other teams in the event include Clemson, Davidson, Georgia, UMass, Nebraska and Temple. Oh, and why is Neal called "Noodles?" It comes from his skinny frame when he was a high school star in Muncie, Ind. When he joined Bobby Cremins' team at Georgia Tech as a freshman, he was 6-foot-5 and just 160 pounds.

Siena: The guy with the best press conferences of all the new hires around the country may be Jimmy Patsos. The always colorful Patsos left his head coaching job at Loyola (Md.) when he was offered the Siena position in the offseason. He replaces Mitch Buonaguro, who was fired after the Saints tied a school record for losses in a season by going 8-24 in 2012-13.

The move also allows the 47-year-old Patsos to stay in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. His old school, Loyola, is moving to the Patriot League. He took some heat for his bizarre coaching decision against Davidson's Stephen Curry nearly five years ago. But sometimes lost among the bombastic sideline rants is how he turned around a Greyhounds team that was coming off a 1-27 season when he arrived and made it a regular contender in the MAAC. Patsos reached the NCAA tournament in 2012 and last season's team went 23-12.

Patsos got a look at his new squad when it played exhibition games in Montreal this summer. But the competition will get tougher quickly. The Saints will open against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic on Thanksgiving. No matter the result, you might want to stick around for his postgame comments.