Sunday, August 18, 2013

Agree On One "Impact" Coach, Disagree On Others

Your hoopscribe isn't a big fan of the online sports site "Bleacher Report," since its writers are primarily "fans" whose expertise and credibility is easily questioned.

Still, a recent report entitled "Coaching Changes With Greatest Impact On 2013-14 Season" did catch your blogger's eye.

In it, Siena's Jimmy Patsos, who came to the program after nine years at Loyola, is recognized as one of 10 coaches likely to have a positive impact during the upcoming season.

And, there will be no disagreement here about that.

The Siena program was marked by a variety of injuries, suspensions, overall team inexperience and a variety of other situations that resulted in an 8-24 record and the firing of coach Mitch Buonaguro, previously a standout assistant who struggled as the program's head coach.

Only one key starter, albeit a very good one in forward O.D. Anosike, graduated, although two other part-time starters were subsequently dismissed. Still, some quality players return and Patsos brought in what looks to be a very strong recruiting class of players, most of whom had previously committed to Loyola and followed Patsos to Siena.

It only stands to reason that things will get better fairly soon, although the view here is that Siena looks like it will struggle to reach the .500 level this coming season primarily because of its relative youth. But, things will change very quickly in subsequent years under Patsos, as they did at Loyola.

Bleacher Report accurately points out that Loyola had won only one game the year prior to Patsos' arrival. Over the next nine seasons, under Patsos, Loyola won 145 games and had been to national post-season tournaments, including the 2012 NCAA tournament, in each of the past two seasons.

Patsos is part of an exclusive club as only the second coach in the last 20 years to take over a zero or one-win team and, then, win 100-plus games during his tenure. Only BYU's Steve Cleveland had matched that feat.

Bleacher Report also notes that ...

"The Saints' basketball budget is greater than Loyola's, and a 17,500 seat arena (mistake there ... the Times Union Center accommodates less than 15,000 for basketball, and less than 10,000 for regular-season games as Siena closes much of the second level for its appearances) will be a potent recruiting weapon for a coach who knows how to capitalize."

But, yes, the facility is indeed a nice recruiting tool that Patsos, an energetic and dynamic recruiter, will advantageously utilize.

We can't claim to know a lot about all the other coaches identified on Bleacher Report's list of "impact" hirings, but we will take exception with two inclusion about which we have considerable insight.

One is that the report identifies new Northwestern coach Chris Collins as having an impact there, replacing Bill Carmody.

Carmody,a personal acquaintance from his own playing/coaching days at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., had already greatly impacted Northwestern's program. He is almost universally recognized as an innovative basketball mind who was able to produce winning seasons at Northwestern despite talent levels that didn't seem to indicate success.

No coach in the history of the Northwestern program had ever brought in a 20-victory season prior to Carmody, who did it it back-to-back seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11), and very nearly had a third one with 19 victories in the 2011-12 season.

Carmody, though, was fired after a 13-19 finish this past year. But, he somehow was able to find a level of success at that program despite playing the highly competitive Big Ten Conference while his own school has arguably the worst playing facility and, reportedly, the lowest basketball budget in the conference.

And, while we're at it, we'll take exception to one other "impact" coach identified by Bleacher Report: G.G. Smith at Loyola.

Oddly, Smith takes over at Loyola for Patsos.

It seems that being identified as having an "impact" as a first-year head coach would indicate the possibility of producing more success than his predecessor.

Someone at Bleacher Report will have to explain just exactly how Smith will produce more success at Loyola than a coach who just produced 47 victories (23 last year, 24 the previous season) and back-to-back national post-season tournaments over the past two seasons.

Smith will have the advantage of having his program move to the Patriot League, clearly a less-competitive situation than Patsos faced in the MAAC. But Loyola only returns three of its top seven scorers from this past season and saw most of its expected incoming recruits follow Patsos to Siena.

To expect Smith to have an immediate impact at Loyola just might be expecting a little too much.

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