Things have been relatively quiet on the search for a coach at Siena, we have learned a few things in recent days.
The Albany Times-Union newspaper, in today's edition, reports that Siena's athletic director John D'Argenio recently went to off campus/out-of-area sites to meet recently with Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole and Virginia Commonwealth associate head coach Mike Rhoades. The newspaper quoted a single source familiar with the process.
We'll go one better on that report. This scribe has two sources that confirmed that D'Argenio had earlier conducted off-campus interviews with Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos and Florida International head coach Richard Pitino.
Those sources indicated that both Patsos and Pitino will be brought to the Siena campus for the next round of interviews later this week.
In every process D'Argenio has conducted, the off-campus interview has been the preliminary meeting, and individuals brought on campus for a second talk, as well as the opportunity to tour the campus and meet with other school administrators, have been finalists for the job.
To read the proverbial tea leaves, then, it would appear that Patsos and Pitino are the early front-runners for the Siena position.
That's not to say that Toole and/or Rhoades won't also be afforded on-campus interviews and get into the mix as "finalists."
But, the past indicates that Siena won't bring four finalists on to its campus. In most other processes, the maximum number of finalists brought to campus had been three.
The current candidates mentioned (Patsos, Pitino, Rhoades and Toole) appear to be the entire "pool." Expect the next Siena coach to come from that group, a variety of sources believe.
In case the Siena administration wants some advice, it says here that the top choice should be Patsos.
The Loyola coach is no stranger to revitalizing a program, and no program needed it more than his own when he took over in 2004-05. The year before his arrival Loyola was 1-27 overall, ranked dead-last in the RPI's, and high school players from the fertile recruiting areas of Baltimore and the D.C. area perceived themselves as failures if they had to accept a scholarship offer from the program.
Patsos quickly changed that perception to where, now, he regularly bring in the best mid-major level talents from his area. And, in his second year the Greyhounds were back over .500.
In his last two seasons, his teams have won 24 and 23 games (first back-to-back 20-victory seasons since the early 1940's at Loyola), and have won 18 or more four of the last seven.
Clearly, Patsos can coach. But, he's more than an on-court mentor. He's also concerned with his players' education, and uses road trips for both team bonding and to enhance his players' cultural boundaries by scheduling trips to historical sites, museums and landmarks.
Pitino has told confidants that he is very interested in the Siena job. His father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, owns a Saratoga Springs home (the elder Pitino enjoys thoroughbred racing).
Pitino, at 30, is also the youngest candidate by far. He just finished his first season at FIU with an 18-14 record, 10 victories more than the program's 8-21 record the previous year.
Makes one wonder, though, if Pitino's relative youth will work against him, as might his inclination to leave FIU (and a reported $250,000 annual base salary) after just one season.
Rhoades has also been a head coach, albeit at the Division III level. After three seasons as an assistant at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., he took over that program and had a 197-76 record in 10 years.
Rhoades then moved to VCU, where he has been an assistant for the past 10 years.
Toole just finished up his third season as head coach at Robert Morris with a 24-11 record and a trip to the NIT where his team got a first-round victory over Kentucky, before a second-loss to Providence.
Prior to his promotion, he had been an assistant in the program for three seasons.
Toole, like former Siena coach Fran McCaffery, is a graduate of Penn.