ESPN Events: Siena

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.

Mid-majors ready for major challenges

October, 25, 2013
There are countless positives for a mid-major program when it knocks off a big-name school, consistently wins 20 games or makes an NCAA tournament run. All the success, exposure and notoriety also produce one negative, however: scheduling headaches. Suddenly the big boys are wary of playing you.

“In my opinion, we’re a true mid-major. When I say that, I mean the kind of success we’ve had in our program, our fan base—we outdraw a lot of BCS schools here,” College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said. “So in that sense, it’s hard to get home games. Even when you potentially can get a decent series and say you have to go on the road, it may cost you $20,000 to $25,000. When you’re a mid-major, you have to manage that sort of a budget. So these are games I just couldn’t get otherwise.”

Wojcik is talking about early-season tournaments. The Cougars play in the Wooden Legacy in California Nov. 28-Dec. 1, opening with San Diego State, playing Creighton or Arizona State in the second round, and closing with another game against a quality opponent in a field that also includes Marquette, Miami, Cal State Fullerton and George Washington.

“Boy, those are good opportunities for us,” admitted Wojcik, who returns most of the team that went 24-11 last season and lost in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational. “It’s a big challenge and it puts a lot of pressure on a team. That’s why you always want to stay experienced and be an upperclassmen team. It really gives you a chance to win some of those games and help your RPI.”

Davidson has seen its Ratings Percentage Index benefit from ESPN Events tournaments in two of the past three seasons. The Wildcats beat Nebraska and Western Kentucky and lost to West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2010. Last year in Orlando, Davidson knocked off Vanderbilt and West Virginia before losing to Gonzaga in the final of the Old Spice Classic on the way to a 26-8 season that included an NCAA tournament appearance.

“You can’t put a price tag on how valuable that is to us, in terms of the way it prepared us for our Southern Conference experience, as well as for postseason play,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “That was a sensational experience.”

McKillop, who must replace graduated big man Jake Cohen, plays in the Charleston Classic Nov. 21-24. Davidson opens against Georgia, plays either Temple or Clemson in the second round, and will close against another potential RPI-boosting team in a field that includes UAB, UMass, Nebraska and New Mexico. “We’ve been to Charleston, to Puerto Rico, then Orlando and now we’re back to Charleston,” McKillop said. “And in each case we’ve been able to play high-powered programs on neutral sites in environments that are attractive for our fans, attractive for our players. It’s sort of a laboratory for our season.”

Northeastern in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and Siena in the Old Spice Classic are also in similar positions of facing several high-major teams on neutral floors. Added Wojcik about the opportunities such tournaments provide: “Gosh, as long as we stay even-keeled, positive, move on whether good or bad, I don’t know how it can’t prepare you for March.”