Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Siena Moves Quickly In Firing Coach Buonaguro

It didn't take long for Siena to fire men's coach Mitch Buonaguro, or, as school officials would prefer to say "relieved (him) of his duties as head coach."

That came down, in an official statement, barely 13 hours after the final horn sounded at the end of the MAAC tournament's championship game in Springfield.

But, if a change is to be made, it's best to do it quickly. As should be the case in finding a replacement, since Buonaguro's successor needs to jump into recruiting, as well as creating bonds in order to retain current players.

"I'd like to thank Mitch for his dedication and commitment to Siena basketball the last eight years," said school athletic director John D'Argenio. "This change isn't being made for a lack of effort (by Buonaguro). Basketball is important in the strategic direction of Siena. We have high expectations and aspirations for this program."

D'Argenio indicated, in the release, that a national search for a new coach is already underway, but has no timetable for its completion. The AD also said there is no set criteria in terms of experience of candidates.

"Whether an individual has head coaching experience, or is an assistant ... we just want to get the right person," said D'Argenio.

A good source believes D'Argenio already made a recent trip to Florida to meet with current Jacksonville head coach Cliff Warren, who was also a candidate for the position when Buonaguro eventually was named three years ago.

Warren has resuscitated a Dolphins' program that was 1-26 in his first season there. In the subsequent seven seasons his teams have had winning records five times and have been to two NITs and one CIT national-postseason events.

Warren was previously an assistant for eight seasons under Paul Hewitt, three of those years at Siena and the other five when the two moved on to Georgia Tech.

Prior to coming to Siena the 45-year old Warren was an assistant for three seasons at Mount St. Mary's College under that program's legendary coach Jim Phalen.

The school, though, will likely have no shortage of candidates.

A source with some knowledge of the Florida International University program believes that its coach, Richard Pitino (son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino) could be interested.

Pitino's Sun Belt league school recently lost in the semifinal round of its conference's post-season tournament to finish with an 18-14 overall ledger in his first season as head coach. The program had an 8-21 record the previous season.

And, a number of sources have speculated that Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos would have interest. The Greyhounds won the 2012 MAAC tournament to advance to the NCAA's, but lost in the quarterfinal round this season. Still, the Greyhounds finished 21-11 and the past two seasons marked the first time in the program's Division I history it has recorded back-to-back 20-plus victory seasons.

Loyola, though, is leaving the conference for the Patriot League and a number of those close to Patsos claim the coach isn't enamored with the move.

There are sure to be others in Siena's sights, as well, But the early names that have surfaced would lend credence to the belief that the school will target someone with experience as a head coach.

That's the route Siena went when it hired McCaffery (who had previously been the head coach at UNC-Greensboro), and with Buonaguro, who was the head coach for six seasons at Fairfield in the late 1980's/early 1990's.

Siena also appears to be a better position financially to bring in someone with experience as a head coach than it was a prior to bringing in McCaffery. Before that, Siena's previous Division I hires (Mike Deane, Bob Beyer, Paul Hewitt, Louis Orr and Rob Lanier) had all come assistant coaching positions without experience as a head coach.

In that era, though, Siena was paying its head coach salaries significantly less than it has in recent years. McCaffery was making well over $500,000 when he lest Siena.

Buonaguro recorded a 35-59 record as Siena's head coach and is believed to have one year remaining on a contract that paid him an estimated $275,000 annually.

He had been previous coach Fran McCaffery's top assistant the previous five seasons and was part of the best five-year era in school history.

But, success brought recruiting challenges as an iron-clad starting group made it difficult to recruit players willing to wait a year or two for their turn. Buonaguro's teams also suffered  an unusually high series of injuries over his tenure. And, he steadfastly refused to take the "quick fix" of bringing in transfers, the route taken by several conference programs currently having success in the MAAC.

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity Siena gave me," Buonaguro said in a statement released by the school. "It's a very special place, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my eight years here. The student-athletes we have brought through the program are people the Siena community can be proud of. We had some great success here, and although the last three years did not produce the results any of us hoped for on the court, I leave knowing I gave my all every day. This is a program I care deeply about, and I wish Siena nothing but the best in the future."

When reached Tuesday afternoon, the 59-year old Buonaguro said that he'd like to remain in coaching in some capacity.

No comments: