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.