Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Former Maryland Coach Gary Williams Visits Siena

It's not an every day occurrence for someone with a world championship ring to visit a MAAC athletic team, so it's always a big event when it happens.

At Siena, in recent years, Rollie Massimino (Villanova, 1985) attended a practice and spoke to the Saints. His staff for that championship team included Mitch Buonaguro, Siena's head coach for the past three seasons; and, Marty Marbach, who lived in upstate New York for several years and served as radio color commentator for the Siena men's games.

Former NFL head coach and Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells, who has a home in Saratoga Springs, also stopped in to visit the team a couple of years ago.

And, Tuesday, it was Gary Williams, the head coach of the 2001-02 Maryland national championship team, who accepted an invitation from current Saints' head coach Jimmy Patsos, to spend two days around the Siena program.

The connection between Williams and Patsos is cemented by Patsos' 13 years as an assistant on Williams' Maryland staff.

Coincidentally, Maryland's first game on its national championship run in 2002 came with an 85-70 first-round victory over Siena.

Two nights earlier Siena had to advance to its meeting with Maryland by knocking off Alcorn State, in Dayton, in a play-in round contest.

Siena stayed close to Maryland for a few minutes, trailing by just a point, 18-17, with 14:40 remaining. Maryland then went on a 15-3 run to start to break things open. The winners' lead was up to 19 late in the first half before Siena cut it to 14 at the break.

Maryland put it away with a 15-2 run early in the second half for a 67-44 lead. The winners used reserves for the last seven or eight minutes of the game, enabling Siena to cut the final margin to 15. And, if memory serves, that was the smallest margin of any Maryland game that tournament prior to its 12-point victory over Indiana in the championship contest.

"Siena was right there and, then, we played well in the second half," Williams recalled to reporters at Siena's practice on Tuesday.

It's no surprise that Williams would make the visit, out of respect for his long-time assistant and friend, Patsos.

And, it was Patsos who prepared the scouting report for Maryland's 2002 NCAA tournament victory over Siena.

Maryland had a team, back then, that included four future NBA players in guards Juan Dixon and Steve Blake and forwards Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox. Dixon had a game-high 29 points in the game against Siena.

Siena got 16 points from forward James Clinton, and 14 points from Dwayne Archbold and 13 from Andy Cavo in the contest.

"Siena was good ... that was a very good basketball team," said the 68-year old Williams, who retired two years ago with 668 career victories over 33 years as a head coach.

Williams, who also coached at American University, Boston College and Ohio State, usually employed an up-tempo, pressure style of play that Patsos favored at his previous position as Loyola's head coach and is currently installing at Siena.

"He (Patsos) was my assistant for 13 years at Maryland, and he was a big part of my success," said Williams. "We've been friends ever since."

Patsos is quick to credit Williams.

"Most of the stuff we do is from him," said Patsos. "He was very influential in (getting) this job. Right away he said, `That's a job you've got to try to get ... basketball job, great city.' He talked to John D'Argenio (Siena's athletic director) to help me get this job."

"Williams spoke to Siena's players prior to their team workout on Tuesday. Each Siena player introduced himself and gave his name and hometown.

Williams spoke to the Saints about the excitement of the upcoming season and the importance of helping the team improve with their daily practice effort.

Williams also attended a dinner at a local restaurant on Monday to meet with team boosters and took a brief tour of the area Tuesday morning, including a stop at the Times Union Center, Siena's home court for games.

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