Aug 22, 2013
The 2013-14 Saints have a completely new look, and that's not a bad thing.
Siena equaled a program-record with 24 losses in 2012-13, leading to the firing of head coach Mitch Buonaguro after three seasons.
The future now 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 the 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. The Greyhounds went 47-21 in his final two seasons, winning the MAAC Championship and advancing to the NCAA's for the first time in 18 years in 2012.
Patsos' 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."
An up-tempo style would be a welcome departure from the last three seasons when Siena struggled mightily on offense, hitting rock bottom with a (Division I) program-worst 60 points per game last season.
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 reestablish the program as one of the elite Mid Major powers in the entire nation. It won't be easy.
Patsos didn't take long rebuilding the roster, bringing in three of his Loyola recruits and a highly touted transfer in Patrick Cole (Coppin State) who will be eligible in 2014-15. It's possible another name could still be added after the departure of Rakeem Brookins and Trenity Burdine who each had turbulent stays at Siena.
Look for the Saints to run, press and play with great energy. Almost everyone on the new-look roster should get plenty of run under this system, and Patsos has already indicated he doesn't think scoring will be an issue. The Montreal trip will be a great chance to see how all these new elements work together.
Juniors Evan Hymes, Rob Poole and Imoh Silas bring an intriguing mix of scoring and athleticism.
Hymes enters his junior season with nearly 750 career points. After running the point for his first two seasons, he will transition to off-guard this year. Poole is a player with all-conference potential, and one of the top marksmen in the league. He's an athletic wing with good size. He can rebound, plays aggressive defense and scores off the drive. Silas is the biggest mystery. Patsos indicated he has been near the top of his depth charts during off-season workouts, as a result of his dedication and upside. He flashed signs of that potential during his first year in the active rotation last season, starting 21 of the 30 games he played.
Sophomores Rich Audu, Brett Bisping and Ryan Oliver each saw playing time as freshmen, and all three are expected to add valuable minutes this season.
It's expected that all the newcomers will contribute too, led by Maryland's Gatorade High School Player of the Year Marquis Wright. Patsos has already said publicly that Wright will be the starting point guard. Javion Ogunyemi led nearby Troy High School to the Section II Championship on his way to being named Player of the Year by the Albany Times Union. Baltimore native Lavon Long brings a great mix of skills and should be a major factor from the get-go, and Michael Wolfe, a 6-9 forward from Germantown, Md., averaged 15 points and 8.5 at Georgetown Prep.
Still, the team's lack of experience leaves makes it difficult to know what to expect. Last year, the Saints were the eighth least experienced team in the nation, and this year only walk-on Steven Cruz in a senior. Hymes and Poole are the only players with more than a year of college experience.
The Saints need to replace the nation's leading rebounder too. O.D. Anosike became just the second player in the last 40 years to lead the country in rebounding in consecutive seasons.
Patsos and the Saints also face a draconian schedule - far more difficult than the one they managed just eight wins with a year ago. The highlight of the schedule is the competitive Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving weekend at Disney World, where Siena will play three games in four days against some of the top teams in the nation, beginning with Memphis on Thanksgiving Day. The Saints also play at 2013 Sweet 16 participant LaSalle, Big Ten power Purdue and 21-win Vermont. They open their season with defending AmericaEast Champion UAlbany November 8, and will play two more conference games this season with the addition of Quinnipiac and Monmouth.
The good news is the easiest portion of the schedule is at home. The Saints won 38 straight games at Times Union Center from 2008-2010, and when the program is rolling their downtown Albany home is always the toughest place to play in the conference.