PITTSBURGH ——Joe Boylan was sitting with Jimmy Patsos at last Saturday's Loyola-Duke lacrosse game when the former athletic director asked the man he had hired as the school's basketball coach eight years ago if he had any preference as to where Greyhounds would play their first NCAA tournament game in 18 years.
"Jimmy wanted to go to Pittsburgh because our fans could get there — and then he said, 'I've set it up for the team to go to the Andy Warhol Museum,'" Boylan recalled Monday. "How many coaches whose teams are going to the NCAA tournament are thinking about that? But that's Jimmy."
Martin Luther King////'s "I Have A Dream" speech on its steps in 1963.
Patsos, a history major at Catholic University whose father won a Tony for stage design 25 years ago, has had his teams take in Broadway shows as well as to the Guggenheim Museum on some of their New York trips. This year, after the Greyhounds got thumped at Marist, their coach the movie nut had the bus driver put on "Love Story" — the 1970 classic in which Ali MacGraw's character is dying of cancer — so they understood that there is more to life than basketball.
Junior center Jordan Latham (City) spent his freshman year at Xavier in Cincinnati, where coach Chris Mack treated road games "like business trips," in particular during the NCAA tournament. Latham had no idea how different it would be under Patsos at Loyola.
"He tries to expand our minds," Latham said Wednesday. "For him, it's a learning experience and he wants us to learn something to use in our everyday lives."
Said junior walk-on Luke Wandrusch: "He's like a tour guide when we're on the bus. You can go around with him and get as much if you were actually on a tour."
Latham said that after discussing the Vietnam War in a sociology class, he was able to tell his teammates about some things that he had learned during the team's visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. Latham said his favorite trip this season was to the Ali museum. Latham even liked "Love Story."
"It was a real good movie. I watched the whole thing," Latham said. "He'll show us all kinds of movies and have all kinds of messages. I'm happy he does that. He teaches us about life."
When the team played at Canisius in upstate New York this season, Patsos took the Greyhounds to Niagara Falls, where the players got out of the bus and snapped pictures. Patsos said that he often books games depending on the location. He is currently negotiating a game at Memphis next season, where he hopes the team will visit Graceland and the Lorraine Motel, where King was murdered in 1968.
Junior guard Robert Olson said the only thing he knew about Patsos before coming to Loyola out of Georgetown Prep in Bethesda was "seeing him on the sidelines freaking out. I knew he was going to be out there, a little crazy, but I didn't know he was that much of a history buff and loved culture and wanted us to experience more than just basketball."
That is what Boylan was hoping for when he hired Patsos, then in his 14th season as an assistant at Maryland. School officials were concerned that Patsos might not be a good fit for the small Jesuit institution on North Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane. Boylan had to convince Father Hap Ridley that there was more to Patsos than X's and O's.
"I told Father Ridley that Jimmy was the warm, fuzzy face of Maryland basketball," Boylan said. "Jimmy and Gary are alike when it comes to basketball, but Jimmy has another side to him."
Away from basketball Patsos is much more like his own college coach at Catholic. Jack Bruen was a New York City guy who played on the same high school team as Lew Alcindor, later to be known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bruen taught his players as much about history and culture as hoops.
"As a Division III player, we went up the day of the game by bus and stayed over, so if we're in New York, why wouldn't we go to the Metropolitan Museum," Patsos said Wednesday. "Why wouldn't we see where Rocky ran up the steps in Philadelphia? What are we going to do sitting around the hotel all day?"
Patsos said that his personal favorite trip was to San Francisco. A devoted Grateful Dead fan, he took the players to Haight-Ashbury. But he also had them watch the movie about Harvey Milk, the city official who was shot and killed because he was openly gay, and then had the Greyhounds walk around The Castro, a prominent gay neighborhood.
"San Francisco had a lot," Patsos said. "I made them trek up Coit Tower and when we got to the top, I told them, 'This is where they made the first 'Dirty Harry' movie and every hand went up. Who's 'Dirty Harry?' It was an eye opener."
Wandrusch had heard all about Patsos from his older sister, Sarah, who was a senior at Loyola when Patsos first got the job and recruited the students to come to games at Reitz Arena. An international business major who minors in German, Wandrusch said Patsos recommended watching the classic Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire."
Wandrusch, who was taking a German cinema class, said he was well-prepared when he found out that it was part of the syllabus.
"He was texting me the next before, telling me lines from the movie," Wandrusch said. "It's amazing the stuff he knows. "
Colleen Campbell, who has worked as the team's academic adviser for the past nine years, said that the off-court lessons have made her job easier.
"Jimmy's like a Renaissance man, really to the point of making everything a teaching moment," Campbell said.