Transformation Underway At Siena

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With just three weeks remaining in the offseason, Siena coach Jimmy Patsos and his staff are in full force, leading a transformation in Loudonville. The colorful yet realistic leader is looking to restore pride in a program following three difficult and frustrating seasons. That coming on the heels of its most successful run of three straight MAAC championships and trips to the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re trying to restore what’s been built over a 25-year period and we’ve learned one thing,” said Patsos. “It takes a while to climb the ladder but if you misstep at the top you can fall quick and I’ve learned that”.

Patsos was hired in large part for his proven ability to transform. As an assistant coach under Gary Williams, he helped raise a Maryland program tarnished by NCAA violations to a national championship in 2002. Then as a head coach at Loyola, he elevated a once irrelevant program to the top of the MAAC. With that experience, Patsos is facing the challenge head-on.

“Remember we had problems off the court.” Patsos said. “They had some stuff go on here. They had two guys that basically were asked to leave school. I’m worried right now as much about what’s going on off the court as I am on the court. I’m gonna make sure were doing what were supposed to in school. I’m not just here to coach the team. I’m here to kinda rebuild the thing and that’s different. I’m not gonna put my head in the sand and try to pretend everything was fine”.

Looking at the large turnout of local writers and television stations during his first Siena Media Day on Friday, Patsos compared his challenge here to what he has faced in the past.

“At Maryland it took a long time. At Loyola it took some time and it’s gonna take some time here,” explained Patsos. “It’s different first of all because at Loyola there was no expectations because nobody cared. I mean the core people cared but we weren’t gonna get any media attention. They came to a few of our games. That was it my first year”.

At Siena, Patsos sees more of a similarity to the foundation which existed at Maryland prior to its rise to glory.

“This is very similar to Maryland,” he said. “That’s why I want Gary Williams to come up on Monday. To let them know that this is what matters. The fact that we have so many fans and so many media that care, that’s Step 1. I think that people care, is the most important thing. That makes it worth fighting for”.

Although he is fully aware of the history and tradition of Siena Basketball and speaks of it often, Patsos knows he can’t focus entirely on the past. It’s not what the fans want and it’s certainly not what he wants for his team.

“The fans here have been patient the last 3 years,” said Patsos. “I think people will be a little patient because they know me and know we’re trying to do it the right way. Siena is a great job because of the tradition and the great history but these new guys have to do it themselves”.

Junior Rob Poole will look to lead a line-up which may include as many as three freshmen starters into a new era. He along with the other returning players seem to have responded well to the adjustment of a new leader.

“Coach is a great guy,” Poole said. “He demands a lot but he also gives a lot back too. He always talks about givers and then there’s takers. He’s much of a giver and that’s what he wants to do as a team. Practice is really hard. It’s intense and he gets into you but that means he cares about you”.

In three weeks, fans will get to see the beginning of the transformation. If practices are any indication, they will like what they see. Perhaps not in the form of all wins in a challenging non-league schedule. But, what they will see is a team with an influx of new talent which plays harder and faster.

“We will earn respect as a team by playing hard, hopefully winning games and doing as much as we can right off the court,” Patsos said. “The players are doing a great job. The administration is behind us. Everything is going according to plan”.

Although the mission is just beginning, Patsos is optimistic that the program is heading in the right direction.

“It’s been an adjustment but things are great,” Patsos said. “The job’s been great. It’s been a surprise the interest at this level. It’s a special place and job and I’m adjusting myself as a coach. There’s been a turnaround. We are doing a lot of good things. Sometimes it doesn’t show up when you’re right in the middle of the storm but we are really doing some great things here as a program”.

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