Thursday, June 13, 2013

Team Report: Siena Men's Makeover Stirs Optimism

Here's another in the "Team Report" series, looking back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 4-14 (9th place) in MAAC play, 8-24 overall.

2012-13 RECAP: Beat Marist, 70-64, in a MAAC tournament play-in round contest, lost to Niagara, 74-62, in a quarterfinal-round contest. Several days after the end of the MAAC tournament, third-year head coach Mitch Buonaguro was fired.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Not a lot, not in an eight-win season. And, it seemed that Buonaguro, a well-respected basketball mind was either not quite capable of a second try as a head coach (he had been the head man at Fairfield in the late-1980's), or was a victim of a lot of circumstances against him. Most fans of the program believe it to be the former, but, in truth, it was probably more the latter. Buonaguro certainly showed he had what it takes the previous season when, due to injuries, and unexpected ineligibilities, he coached a team with just six reliable players to a far-above-expectations 14-17 record. And, then, this past year started when two of his expected starters, Rakim Brookins and Trenity Burdine, were suspended for the season's first three games due to rules' violations. Brookins dealt with back issues most of the rest of the season, and Burdine had some foot issues and a second academic-related suspension during the season. Despite that, the Saints were usually respectable, losing two games by a single point and eight overall by six points or fewer. Senior forward O.D. Anosike was a significant bright spot, leading the country in rebounding (11.4 per game) for the second straight season, the first player in MAAC history to do so. Sophomore swingman Rob Poole (11.8, 4.7) became a nice second option and, with a little more improvement, will contend for conference all-star honors in the future. Brookins, Burdine and sophomore Evan Hymes all had some bright moments, good games and big plays ... just not nearly enough of them.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The year-long issues/injuries with Brookins and Burdine were real setbacks. Hymes, who had one of the best freshmen seasons in school history (13.4 ppg.), didn't match that as a sophomore, dropping to 11.3 with nearly four turnovers per contest. Sophomore big man Imoh Silas, a redshirt the previous year due to a complicated NCAA ruling, wasn't what Buonaguro hoped for, particularly on the defensive end. Freshman forward Brett Bisping dealt with some back issues most of the year, while another touted first-year player, guard Ryan Oliver, suffered a mid-season knee injury and only played 17 games. It left the Saints thin in the backcourt, to the point that Poole wound up playing major minutes there late in the season. Davis Martens, who had a strong late-season stretch (12.5/5.3 over a five-game stretch), opted to graduate and not come back for the coming season and complete a final year's eligibility. The 8-24 record, coupled with a slow-down style and reliance on a zone defense, almost necessitated by depleted numbers, also alienated fans, and school administrators opted to let Buonaguro go despite a year remaining on his contract.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Just about everything will change, particularly at the top with former Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos taking over. Patsos revitalized a dormant Greyhounds' program and took that team to the NCAA's two years ago and to the Tournament this past season. Patsos also has the type dynamic personality that attracts interest, a modern-day Mike Deane, if you will. Brookins and Burdine are both gone, victims of more violations. It leaves Poole as the only sure-thing starter among returnees, although the 6-8 Silas, Hymes and Oliver will certainly be in the mix. Patsos, though, is a master at reloading and finding players, and he found a few for Siena among players who initially committed to play for him at Loyola. Those include incoming freshmen point guard Marquis Wright, 6-8 power forward Michael Wolfe and 6-6 forward Lavon Long. Thee lone Buonaguro recruit still coming in is 6-8 Javon Ogunyemi, an athletic big man who could be a part of the playing rotation. Patsos also got a transfer in 6-5 guard Patrick Cole from Coppin State, where he averaged 10.3 ppg. this past season as a freshman. Cole will have to sit out a year per transfer rules. There is also a possibility that talented 6-2 guard Taran Buie, a local product who has already been at two colleges (Penn State and Hofstra) might join the program and is seeking an NCAA waiver to be immediately eligible to a family illness. For sure the Saints will be young with a lot of new pieces to fit into place. But, Patsos has already exhibited an ability to turn a program around. He just might not be able to do it right away.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Bringing in a coach with nine years of experience and considerable success elsewhere in Patsos is a coup for the program. He knows how to find players. But, the turnaround he made with the Loyola program took a couple of years, and it might not happen right away at Siena, either ... not with all the newcomers and inexperience players who will get playing time. It's probably too much to expect a top-five finish (the top five teams avoid the post-season tournament's play-in round), but Patsos' team will play hard and be competitive. Expect a few more wins than last year and a finish somewhere in the 6th/7th/8th range in the 11-team league with much better to come in subsequent seasons.

1 comment:

Steve Amedio said...

Not going to allow a negative debate about individuals on this blog, so have deleted those comments.
I'll accept private contact about issues, but not in this public forum.