By Kevin Sweeney
The biggest remaining domino in the 2018 coaching carousel has fallen, maybe?
Siena has hired Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian to be their next head coach, per Rodger Wyland of WNYT in Albany. Wyland reports that a press conference is hoped for on Friday.
UPDATE: Jon Rothstein now is reporting that the hire has yet to be finalized, but that Christian is a leading candidate. A spokesperson for Siena says no offer has been made.
UPDATE 5/1: Marisa Jacques of Spectrum News in Albany is reporting that Siena will name Christian their next head coach after all.
Christian replaces Jimmy Patsos, who resigned earlier this month amidst allegations of verbal abuse against players and managers following an 8-24 season.
The 36-year-old Christian, a Shaka Smart disciple, heads to Loudonville after an impressive 6-year run at Mount St. Mary’s, where he took the Mountaineers to 2 NCAA Tournaments and never finished below .500 in conference play. Christian consistently recruited extremely well to “The Mount”, bringing in talents like Elijah Long and Miles Wilson into the program. However, just like most of the NEC, his rosters were consistently set back by transfers, as Long headed to Texas, Wilson to Miami, and Mawdo Sallah to Kansas State after last season’s NCAA Tournament berth. At Siena, with much better facilities and a bigger conference, Christian has a chance to keep those types of talents for 4 years, something Siena fans should be excited about.
However, Christian inherits a difficult situation at Siena, as the Saints are coming off a brutal season and have seen several key players announce their intent to transfer. Freshmen Prince Oduro, Roman Penn, and Jordan Horn have all requested releases to transfer, and Nico Clareth, who left the program midseason, is currently on the market as a sit 1, play 1 transfer. Penn and Horn look like decent bets to return, but Oduro appears to be gone, with multiple high-major programs already expressing interest. Clareth has received interest from several mid- and high-major programs, but would be a sit 1, play 1 transfer. Christian’s first job will be to re-recruit those 4 players, and from there, he’ll have to get to work recruiting late in the cycle to add talent.
To me, this is about as good a hire as Siena could have realistically made. The brief flirtations with Rick Pitino were quite fun to watch, but it would have been an extremely risky hire with all the negative publicity and potential show-cause penalty to come. Getting an up-and-coming coach who plays a fun style and recruits well will indubitably be welcomed by Siena fans, as they look to get back to the heights of the Fran McCaffery era.
As for Mount St. Mary’s, the program is left in a bit of a lurch. Making a hire in May is very difficult, and it doesn’t seem likely that the Mountaineers will be able to hire from within, as the staff there is inexperienced. The new coach will inherit a talented young core, but will face roster balance issues (no rising juniors or seniors on the current roster) as well as could set into motion a mass transfer exodus from the program– something that is all too familiar for their NEC foes.