It was expected to be just another Saturday morning practice for the Siena men's basketball team yesterday, a scheduled 8:30 a.m. starting time, usually an hour at which players are still shaking out the last vestiges of sleep.
But when the Saints took to their Alumni Recreation Center practice court this Saturday morning, there was a presence on the sidelines that got their attention, whose attendance surely was an eye-opener that gave them a better early morning jolt than a second cup of coffee.
There, sitting in a chair along one of the sidelines ready to watch the team work out was Bill Parcells, the veteran NFL coaching great; the "Big Tuna" himself.
Parcells wasn't on hand just to get a Saturday morning sporting entertainment, although it wasn't a lengthy trip trip for the former NFL coaching great to attend, just about a 30-mile drive down the Adirondack Northway from the home he owns in Saratoga Springs, and lives in about five months a year.
Parcells' connection with the upstate New York community grew from an affinity for horse racing, and his attendance at the Saratoga throrughbred racing meet for many years. Now 71, Parcells not only is a fan, but owns several horses, too.
And, through racing, came his connection to a certain Siena player.
Siena's players often pick up summer employment at the Saratoga track as waiters. This past summer, the Saints' senior forward O.D. Anosike often waited on Parcells' table.
"He has kept in touch with O.D., likes O.D., and came down to see him," Saints' coach Mitch Buonaguro told the Times Union newspaper.
Not to miss a golden opportunity, Buonaguro asked Parcells to step on the court to say a few words to the Saints.
"That was great, and he also stayed for the whole practice," said Buonaguro, who said that his players were "riveted" when Parcells spoke to them.
"He gave a nice message about making sure the players are committed to each other and committed to winning," added the Siena coach. "He was really good. He spoke for about five minutes. It was a thrill for me, too, to meet him and be able to talk to him."
Buonaguro said Parcells is hoping to help Anosike's chances of playing professionally after the player graduates this spring. Anosike, a 6-foot-8 front-court player, led the nation in rebounding as a junior last season.
"I think he just connected with him (Anosike), likes him and thinks he's a nice kid," Buonguro said. "He's got a lot of friends in the NBA, and has talked to them about (Anosike). That's a person (Parcells) that it can't hurt to be a friend of."
Parcells won Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants in the 1986 and 1990 seasons and accumulated a 172-130-1 record in stints with the Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.
Parcells isn't the first celebrity meeting enjoyed by Anosike while at Siena. Last season, while at a Baltimore-area restaurant prior to playing a game there against Loyola, the Saints were able to meet former NBA star center Wes Unseld.
Unseld was told that Anosike, at the time, was the nation's rebounding leader, and posed for pictures with Anosike.
Unseld, according to Anosike, asked how many rebounds a game the Siena player was averaging.
"I told him I was at about 12 per game," said Anosike. "He told me that he used to get that many in a game with his left hand alone."