At some point, presumably in the next couple of weeks, Siena College will name its 17th head coach in men’s basketball program history.
To put it lightly, the Siena program is at somewhat of a crossroads right now. Now former head coach Jimmy Patsos resigned on April 13 following verbal abuse allegations, as well as per diem accusations against his coaching staff. To add onto this, the Saints are coming off an 8-24 campaign that saw them win just four conference game and only win one game away from the Times Union Center for the entire season. That one win was against non-conference foe Bryant, who went 3-28 this season.
When Siena embarked on their last head coach search in 2013 following the Mitch Buonaguro era, it was known that they needed to make a strong hire that could bring the program back to relevancy following Buonaguro’s disastrous tenure that saw Siena win just 20 conference games in three years.
When Patsos was hired, it seemed as though Siena had struck gold. They won the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) championship during Patsos’ first season in 2013-14, and many believed that Siena basketball was back to national relevancy. That year, players such as Marquis Wright, Javion Ogunyemi and Lavon Long were freshman, and Brett Bisping was a sophomore. With the group they had, it seemed like they had nowhere to go but up. They took a big step backwards the next season with a mark of 11-20 and then 21-13 the next season. In 2016-17, with that whole group seniors (Bisping had taken a redshirt season due to injury), Siena looked prime and ready to potentially win the MAAC and make it back to the NCAA tournament.
It did not happen. the Saints underachieved all season, going 17-17 but still reached the MAAC final, losing by one point to Iona. The group that had four 1,000 point scorers, the only team in the country to boast that, would not get their moment.
Now after this season, it is clear that Siena cannot afford to make a mistake with this hire if they want to return to being a nationally-known program. They were believed to be the next Gonzaga during the last few years of Fran McCaffrey’s tenure, winning three straight MAAC titles and going 46-8 in the MAAC during those years. When he left for Iowa, Siena hastily named his top assistant Buonaguro as the head coach, and named Jimmy Patsos the head coach rather quickly in 2013.
As with all head coach searches, it is important that the organization finds the best candidate for them. Here though, it is especially crucial that Siena takes their time and thoroughly explore every possibility with this hire, for the benefit of the program’s future. If they make a mistake, it can mean a dormancy of the program for several years. They are already close to losing the MAAC tournament, and they certainly do not want to lose more.
The rumors of Rick Pitino have come and (possibly) gone, which surely would have made headlines but the question remains to be seen if he would have won at Siena.
The college has been pretty quiet so far in their search, but multiple names have been brought up, mainly through social media, such as Le Moyne head coach Patrick Beilein, Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara, Skidmore head coach Joe Burke, and Siena alumni coaching around the country such as Marc Brown and Carmen Maciarello, and former Siena assistant Andrew Francis.
Regardless of who they hire, the expectations will lay heavily on whoever that may be to win in Loudonville. If they do win and compete for MAAC championships on a consistent basis, the coach will likely be seen as a savior of the program. If they fail to, it may mean bad consequences for the future of basketball at Siena.