Column: Just Pay Your Coaches if You Don’t Want Them Anymore

By Kevin Sweeney

Last night’s big story in college basketball came out of Loudonville, NY, when reports of verbal abuse against embattled Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos surfaced. Among the allegations are Patsos calling a student manager with OCD “the next Unabomber”, along with kicking managers off the team bus and making them walk to a game.

This allegations… suck. They suck bad. As someone who grew up a fan and season ticket holder for Siena basketball, my heart dropped when I read these allegations. There’s simply no place in college basketball for this type of stuff.

All that said, there’s a reason this came out now, and it’s the latest example of a growing trend in college basketball that no one should like.

When things go south on the court, athletic directors and other administrators begin looking for dirt.

We saw this earlier this offseason with both UConn and Pitt firing their coaches for cause (Stallings later accepted a settlement). Before that, Larry Eustachy’s name was ramrodded in the media for verbally abusing players before he took a settlement (about 25% of his buyout). The timing of all 3 (and the seemingly impending 4th) line up with when a team’s on-court performance went downhill.

Eustachy, coming off winning Coach of the Year in the Mountain West and a 24-win campaign, got off to a slow start this season. Most believed he wasn’t the guy at Colorado State long-term, but a $3 million buyout stood in the way. In February, verbal abuse allegations surfaced, and Eustachy was placed on administrative leave and eventually resigned with a settlement of $750,000.

With Patsos, it’s hard not to see the connection between when this comes out and Siena’s recent struggles. After an underwhelming 17-17 mark in 2016-17, the Saints fell flat on their face with an 8-24 mark in 2017-18. Fans of the program were ready for a change, but a hefty buyout reportedly between $750k and $1.2 million stood in the way, especially for a school in not the best shape financially.

And now, a month after the season ended and days after rumors around the college basketball landscape of Pat Beilein being next in line at Siena began to surface, this report is released. Something smell fishy to you?

Siena and everyone who knows college basketball knew who they were hiring when they did this search. After all, they played against him for several years. Patsos is certainly old-school, a guy who was known to yell at kids. In short, if Siena was worried about a guy who would yell and scream at players because he might cross a line, Patsos was never the right candidate for the job. That’s not to say he wasn’t hireable, as he had done admirably at Loyola (MD) and is also known for the most part as a good guy who was well-liked by his players. But Siena clearly had no problem with taking on a guy who they knew would bring some antics along with him.

Yet now, when the school desperately wants out of a contract that they extended twice in Patsos’ first 3 seasons, this info leaks?

Siena made its own bed with this contract, as did UConn, Pitt, and Colorado State before them with big buyouts they couldn’t afford. If you didn’t want him there any more, pay him his buyout and go get Pat Beilein or whoever else you choose to hire. Don’t spend a month bargaining with him while you gather evidence of something that had been going on far before this season, then destroy his reputation and make him virtually unemployable by any Division 1 program.

Ask yourself this: would this story be out there if Siena went 24-8 this season? Or would there have been a quiet, behind-the-scenes reprimand, maybe a fine, and a story kept out of the spotlight?

Siena is better than this, and college basketball is better than this. In all 4 circumstances, the only cause these coaches are being fired for is not winning enough games.

Siena Wins Worst College Basketball Game Ever®️

By Kevin Sweeney

It was the worst collegiate basketball game I have ever watched.

Siena took down Saint Peter’s in triple overtime yesterday by a final score of 59-57. The game was tied at 40 at the end of regulation, tied at 45 after one OT, 50-all at the end of the second. The fact that a team gets to walk away with a win on their resume from that game almost seems unfair.

With Siena losing star guard Nico Clareth to a midseason transfer and without their 2 best off-ball scorers in Jordan Horn and Khalil Richard due to injuries, it was always going to be a struggle for the Saints to put the ball in the basket. To combine that with playing Saint Peter’s, a team that under John Dunne is known for grinding the tempo of games (347th in possessions per game this season) to a halt, was a recipe for a grind-it-out affair.

We knew it would be ugly.

We didn’t know it was possible to be that ugly.

The first half concluded with Saint Peter’s leading 24-16, as they roared out to a nice lead by shooting a blistering 39% from the field and 3-9 from 3. Meanwhile, Siena had double the number of turnovers than made field goals (10-5) and didn’t have a single player make more than 1 field goal in the half.

At that point, this was bigger than 1 game: many Saints fans began to sarcastically root for the Siena to beat the record for their lowest-scoring D1 game of 39. Whatever Jimmy Patsos said in the locker room must have worked, as Siena’s offense churned up to another level in the second. Saint Peter’s committed 7 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the second half, putting Siena in the bonus for the rest of the game. But the Saints went just 19-33 from the stripe in the second half and overtimes, including putrid showings from big man Prince Oduro (2-8) and wing Thomas Huerter (2-7). At one point, the teams combined to miss 6 straight free throws in the span of 3 seconds of game action. Take a look at this brutality:

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There’s a very real argument to be made for shutting a game down immediately when something like this happens.

Yet somehow in such an ugly affair, the game just found a way to be entertaining in its unpredictability. Whether it was the only 1 field goal made in the final 5:50 of regulation, the teams trading 5-0 runs to keep the score tied in the first overtime, a jump ball to end the second OT period, Prince Oduro traveling as soon as he caught a defensive rebound for Siena, or 2 consecutive shot clock violations by the Saints in the 3rd OT, the game was simply something to behold.

In the end though, a big bucket by sophomore wing Ahsante Shivers (14 points, 10 rebounds) gave Siena the lead late, and they held on at the buzzer to claim one of the strangest wins in CBB history.

Of course, the always-quotable Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos had plenty to say postgame, saying “I was glad we went three overtimes. Otherwise, we weren’t going to score 40 points, and I didn’t want that score flashing around the country,” per Mark Singelais of the Times Union.

And if you think watching that game took a toll on the fans, look at what it did to Patsos:

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That man is drenched.

To be honest, I’m not sure how to end this. After the watching that game, I sat around for about 15 minutes processing what I had just witnessed. The lowest-scoring 3OT game (by a wide margin of 21 points) since 2002, per Ken Pomeroy. The game didn’t cover the over even though they played 15 extra minutes! But it was more than that, it was an absolute mess of a basketball game. In fact, it was such a mess that my dorm room lost power. No one else’s did. Just mine. I’m convinced that this is not a coincidence.

Have a great day, and shield your eyes on February 25 when these teams match up again.