Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Former Siena Coach Deane Out At Wagner

Time for a brief break from looking at the men's teams prior to the MAAC tournament to reflect a little on the firing of former Siena coach Mike Deane at Wagner.

Deane coached there for seven years and never got the Seahawks to the NCAA tournament. His inexperienced team finished 5-26 overall this season and 3-15 in its league. So, the move is understandable.

Your blogger, though, knows Deane to be a terrific coach who was in a difficult situation. Wagner, located in the shadows of dozens of larger and more-prestigious basketball programs, isn't the easiest place to attract quality recruits.

Deane is 58 years old and at that age it's difficult to catch on as a head coach again after being fired. But, any mid-major program could do a lot worse than bringing in Deane.

Deane coached eight seasons at Siena (1986-97 through 1993-94) and still holds the program's record for career coaching victories (166-77) since its move to the Division I level in 1976.

Deane came to Siena after several seasons as an asisstant coach at Michigan State and was brought in to elevate a fledgling program that was starting to have some success but had yet to move beyond the bounds of having success at a league level.

Deane, though, quickly changed that primarily with the successful recruitment of the two best point guards to ever play for Siena, first Marc Brown and, then, Doremus Bennerman.

He brought in Brown in 1987 and Brown's first season there resulted in Siena winning a regular-season title in its former league, the North Atlantic Conference (which later became America East), and a berth in the NIT, the program's first national post-season tournament on the Division I level.

The following year the Saints won the NAC again and went to their first NCAA tournament. Once there they beat 13th-ranked Stanford in the first round, still Siena's best-ever victory. Your blogger contends that the 1988-89 team that beat Stanford remains the best team to ever play at the Loudonville school

Siena joined the MAAC after that season but Deane's teams never got to the NCAA's again. They did, though, play in the NIT in 1991 and 1994 (advancing to the semifinal round that season), when the NIT was still a relatively big deal for MAAC teams.

Deane might never have left Siena were it not for the school's decision to be tight financially concerning his contract. When Marquette offered Deane $300,000 to move, Deane moved on.

He took both Marquette and, then, Lamar to NCAA tournaments in subsequent years.

No matter where Deane coached, he did things the right way. He refused to recruit academic risks or bring in players with behavioral issues. Deane wanted his athletes to be good representatives of the schools at which he coached.

During Deane's playing career he was on a Division III national championship team at Potsdam and was drafted by the NBA, but was one of the last cuts by the Milwaukee Bucks and went into coaching.

Even as a coach, though, he continued to be an active player earning a spot on Empire State Games teams in the early 1980s when he was in his late 20's.

At Siena, in his mid-30's, he regularly got on the court to scrimmage with his team and his players struggled to deal with his clever arsenal of point guard moves.

Deane certainly was an important cog in the progression of Siena's program to its current level.

His 1993-94 team played two NIT games at Albany's Times Union Center to capacity crowds, bringing about one of Deane's more-memorable lines: "Jim Coyne built it," said Deane, referring to the Albany County's Executive of that era directly responsible for the arena's construction ... "and, Mike Deane filled it."

Deane's high passion for basketball and his competitive spirit remains strong, by all accounts.

He is a good man and a good coach. This blogger hopes Deane will have a place at which to coach next season.

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