Saturday, April 5, 2014

Siena Finishes Surpise Season With CBI Crown

It was nearly an hour after Siena finished off Fresno State in impressive 81-68 fashion to capture the third and final game, and the championship of the CBI Tournament on its on-campus Alumni Recreation Center court.

By then, the crowd that rushed the court had dissipated, the photo-taking had ended, the trophy ceremony concluded. A private locker-room talk was complete.

And, then, Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos met with a sizable contingent of media types.

He brought with him a visual aid, one he wanted front and center enough to have the gaudy CBI championship trophy pushed to the far end of the press-conference's tale where he sat with two of his players.

Patsos brought with him words from Ghandi, in large bold print and framed. He spoke about how it was a gift from his one-time agent, Rob Ades, who passed away not long ago. Ades presented the framed Ghandi quote to Patsos when he first became a head coach at Loyola 10 years ago.

The words:
"First they ignore you,
Then they laugh at you,
Then they fight with you,
then you win."

They are words that fit his time with the Greyhounds, and surely fit in his first season at Siena.

Patsos' team in Loudonville this season was all but ignored, expected to do little more than trying to build for the future.

He spoke about how the league ignored Siena as league coaches predicted his team to finish 10th in the 11-team MAAC.

And, then, he noted about how hard opponents had to fight to hold Siena from even better than its unexpected fifth-place finish in the league standings.

And, then, the Saints won.

They won the CBI championship Saturday. It's all relative, of course. The CBI is hardly the NCAA Tournament. Nor is it even the NIT. It's even considered a little below the CIT event.

But, it is a national tournament. And, Siena now can say they both won a national tournament, and did so on the Saturday of the NCAA's Final Four weekend.

It didn't seem to matter on Saturday the level of the event. It was the first national post-season event title of any kind for the program since it won the National Catholic Invitation Tournament in 1950.

On Saturday, two members of that 1950 team were on hand, all-time great Billy Harrell and key teammate Bill Healey. Well over a dozen other former Siena players where at the 40-year old facility where Siena hadn't played a regular-season game since Feb. 18, 1997

Conflicts with its Times Union Center home court, though, brought Games 2 and 3 of the CBI back to the ARC.

Siena lost Game 2 on Wednesday night, falling behind by 22 late in the first half before winding up an 89-75 loser.

On Saturday, though, Patsos appealed to his team's sense of history, reacquainted them with the banners of the old Catholic tournament, and of NCAA and NIT appearances and victories over the years.

He spoke about how the ARC is truly his team's home (it conducts all its practices there), and that it better protect it.

So, protect it Siena did, jumping out immediately on sophomore forward Brett Bisping's three-pointer on the first play of the game and never trailing.

This time it was Siena that took a 22-point lead, early in the second half. Siena had to hold off a Bulldogs' rally that got them to within nine with 1:31 remaining, but it never got closer than that.

Siena's junior swing man Rob Poole led his team's offense with 23 points, while sophomore forward Brett Bisping added 20 points, nine rebounds and was named the CBI's Most Valuable Player.

Siena finishes with a 20-18 overall record, just a year removed from an 8-24 finish.


speedboy said...

Love him or hate him coach Patsos held his team together and taught them how to fight. Over the coarse of the season you could see the change ,now they are champions . great job !

Steve Amedio said...

Couldn't agree more. Readers of this space know I was highly supportive of Patsos' candidacy for the Siena job a year ago, and his work there this season reinforces the school's decision. They have loved him at Siena this season, and that feeling was in place long before his team won the CBI event.