Press Conference and Interview With Siena A.D. John D’Argenio



Following a press release sent out just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday,  announcing the firing of Head Coach Mitch Buonaguro , Siena College Director of Athletics John D’Argenio met with members of the local media to discuss the matter and answer questions about the decision and the process moving forward. Here are the highlights followed by a discussion which took place following the press conference.

“I talked to Mitch this morning and  as expected he was a consummate professional about the whole thing.”

“Siena basketball has been important to this community for a number of years. From the 50’s going back to Billy Harrell and the national Catholic Championship, to selling out the Washington Avenue Armory to the 2000’s when we won 3 MAAC tournaments and 2 NCAA games. That was probably the greatest era, and he , Mitch, was right in the middle of that. He did a great job recruiting quality student athletes to come to Siena. He did a great job assisting and devising game plans that engineered some of the greatest victories in the history of Siena Basketball.

“Unfortunately, these past 3 years have not worked out the way we had hoped in developing some consistency. He and I talked about that a little bit throughout the year and certainly this morning. I thanked him for all the work and effort he gave to us and to Siena Basketball.”

“We’ll start the search process immediately. We want someone who can come in here and win MAAC Championships, recruit the type of students that we want here at Siena, including those that can play at a high level and want to earn a degree at Siena and understand the value that it has, and that are great citizens in the community.”

“We’re wide open, there’s no particular background or profile that we will be looking for as long as it’s  somebody who respects the history and traditions of Siena College.”

Why didn’t it work out?

“I’m not sure. Certainly there were a lot of challenges that he had that we didn’t have in his 5 years as an assistant; a lot of injuries starting with his first year to Clarence Jackson to this year with Rakeem Brookins in and out. That’s not to lay any blame on any players, that’s just the roll of the dice. The second year with the short bench which I thought he did an outstanding job. Sometimes when it rains it pours and I think it has been doing that in the last few years.”

Time table

“The most important thing is the guys in the program right now. I met with them earlier today. I’m hopeful that they’re all committed to Siena College. We didn’t have that discussion. We just had a discussion of continuing to work hard, work out and take care of your academics. In terms of a timetable I’m not gonna commit to any timeline. When we do that we tend to rush and we don’t make the best decision.”

A candidate profile?

“I’m looking for someone that can win championships and graduate players whether that’s a head coach or an assistant coach, so be it. We’ve gone both ways before and we’ve had successes and we haven’t had successes so it doesn’t have to be one or the other it just has to be the right person.”

Will any prior candidates considered?

“I don’t know yet. We haven’t made any decisions on who we’ll sit down and talk to.”

The process

“I’ll go out and do the leg work. I’ll take a couple names and recommend them to the president of the college.”

How attractive is the job?

“The great part about this program is it gets such support which leads to high expectations. When Mitch took over the expectations were off the chart They won’t be there now, eventually they will be, so in some ways it might be a little easier for somebody but it’s still gonna be a very attractive job.”

Was decision difficult financially?

“It wasn’t difficult at all because we made the decision. We always have to take finances into consideration. You always have to plan for such things and we planned and made contingency plans.”

Message to the fans

“They’ve always been great. Our program has always been resilient. One of the challenges of being at the level we’re at is the cyclical nature of the success of the programs. Watching the championship game last night, Iona has had a nice run. They had a nice run some years ago and had a downslide. Same thing for Manhattan. Unfortunately that’s the nature of our position. But, our goal and our mission is to minimize that downturn. I would tell them to be patient. The program is resilient. Certainly the college is committed to it or it wouldn’t be part of our strategic plan. We wouldn’t be planning to make renovations to our facility to make it a better basketball situation. So the commitment is there.”

Status of the rest of the staff

“I talked to all the assistants. I asked Craig Carter to stay on till we hire a new coach and then the other ones, we told them they’d been released from their duties.”

Is the job more or less attractive this time around?

“I think anytime you have a head coach opening you get a lot of interest cause there’s only 320+ of them at the Division 1 level. I think this is a job where you might get different people attracted to it. Could be head coaches, could be long time assistant coaches. With the success we’ve had, with the tradition of the program support, the fan support and the media, people gravitate towards this job.”

Incoming recruits

“We’ll reach out to the individuals we’ve had sign. Certainly it’s our hope that they’ll continue to stay committed to Siena. It’s always nice to say they commit to the college but we also know to a certain degree, there’s an affinity to the coach so we’ll have to have that conversation. We want them to stay and we hope that they will.”

Following the press conference, D’Argenio discussed the decision, the reactions and the search for a replacement.

“The objective is to get somebody in here than can win games and mentor young men, not so much to win the headlines or the media conference, so profile doesn’t matter, but it needs to be somebody who understands this level of basketball that can help us achieve great success.”

Will someone with prior Head Coach experience be a better fit to rebuild the program?

“Certainly we’ve gone that route before. When we hired Fran that was the idea. I do think we have a lot of good talented people here so I’m not necessarily leaning towards a head or an assistant. I think both have their positive benefits.”

When did it appear that a change would be coming?

“I think when we got to the midway point and we weren’t winning games or necessarily improving as much as we needed to , then we really started to sit down and say ‘ok what will we do if this continues throughout the year?’  We felt coming into the year, and I mentioned this to Mitch and the staff, that we could be a .500 or better team. I know winning championships is tough, especially with a young team, so while that was out goal we didn’t necessarily expect it, but we certainly did think we’ d be a little higher in  the standings then we were.”

How did the team react?

“I talked to the whole team today after I talked to Mitch. I told them what our plans were, gave them the opportunity to ask some questions and just let them know that there’s still people here during the transition that are here to support them. They were very good. There weren’t a lot of questions. There will be over time and I told them you know where my door is and you know my phone number. It’s a tough time for them so I didn’t expect them to have a lot of questions quite honestly.”

Any chance the players expected this?

“I would think so. We’re all realists and everyone understands the expectations of the program, and certainly they knew we weren’t achieving to the level we need to.”

Tough decision personally?

“That’s probably the hardest thing. Certainly if you look at it on paper it’s a little bit easier. But, he’s such a good person, he’s such a great professional and I’ve never worked around anyone who’s worked harder at it so that makes it much more difficult. He’s been doing this a long time. He’s always been a professional and a great person in the community so that made it a little bit harder.”

Has program reputation been diminished?

“I don’t think it’s been diminished, by virtue of the number of phone calls tests and emails I’ve gotten in the last couple of hours. I think people still see it as a great brand. I do know that we had a good average attendance this year. I know obviously some people, season ticket holders were no-shows but we were still able to bring people to the arena. So, I think the brand is still strong. Obviously we can’t continue to go in this direction or else it will be but I don’t think we’re at that critical stage yet.”

Mitch’s reaction

“He was great and he understood and he thanked us for the opportunity when I sat down with him one on one. He was sorry that it didn’t work out better. He reiterated that he gave it everything he had.”

Have you met with any candidates?

“I haven’t had any meetings with anybody. We’ll start digging into it now. Certainly you’re always having names in a drawer just in case.”

How important is this selection of a replacement?

“It is important. You can’t be down for very long or else you start to become irrelevant and we certainly don’t want that.”

On dealing with the ups and downs of the program

“It’s not very fun is it?  That’s the level that we live at. I would love for it not to be that way but it’s a high risk high reward program. We come in, we have great success, somebody leaves and gets a great job and then you try to come in with somebody else. Unfortunately it’s the nature of where we are. We’ll keep battling to change that.”

Looking back on selecting Mitch

“He (Mitch) was certainly an outstanding basketball person and he had a great deal to do with the success we had and we wanted to get off that treadmill of highs and lows. We thought if would could develop some consistency with the  coaching staff that would help us be consistent on the court and at the same time bringing in some assistant coaches we thought could help develop us a succession plan. Unfortunately that just didn’t work out the way we wanted it.”

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