Siena men's basketball coach Jimmy Patsos didn't waste time praising his old coaching grounds once he arrived to speak at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on Friday, a week before his first game since leaving Loyola.
"Maryland blood. Loyola blood. Now Siena," Patsos said before third annual Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation College Basketball Tip-Off event. "This will always be — I didn't sell my condo, let's put it that way. I kept it."
After working as an assistant to long-time Maryland coach Gary Williams for 13 years, Patsos took the helm of a Greyhounds program that had won only one game the season before his arrival in 2004. Patsos led a turnaround that featured two consecutive 20-win seasons and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2012 before he accepted the top post at Siena in April.
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"Loyola was the perfect fit for me for a while," Patsos said, "but now I want to take the next step."
Patsos and Williams were joined by Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., current Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, Villanova coach Jay Wright and retired Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins at Friday's tip-off event.
Williams was a confidante for Patsos as he considered the news position, outlining some of Siena's positives. The Albany-area school offered a location that would be more focused in its college basketball fandom than Baltimore, which has stronger professional draws.
"[Siena] is isolated. It's harder to win in a city when playing in college," Patsos said. "You've got the Ravens, the Orioles, lacrosse, the Preakness, everything."
Williams said his experience coaching at Ohio State, in Columbus, was similar to Siena geographically.
"He created interest [at Loyola], which is hard to do in a metro area," Williams said. "Jimmy is really strong at that. He will get people believing in his program. He's a good recruiter, and he's going to bring people in who can play."
Of course, with increased fan interest comes greater scrutiny.
"There is a lot of pressure. If I don't win, I'll get fired quick," Patsos said. "They expect us to go back to the NCAA [tournament]. ... They've set their bar very high."
Patsos said he was somewhat spoiled by the Baltimore baskeball scene, where he had difficulty choosing from all the high school games to visit for recruiting. And his connections here ensure he won't become a stranger.
"Every two hours there is a flight to Baltimore," he said. "If I didn't keep that pipeline, I wouldn't have taken the job."
This stay in Baltimore was short for Patsos. He flew in Thursday night and had a flight out scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday, so he could return to prepare for Siena's scrimmage against New Jersey City University on Saturday. The team's regular season opener is Nov. 8 at Albany, where he expects a large crowd at the Times Union Center.
"This is an interesting week," he said. "Before the first two weeks you're flying high on playing basketball with your team. When you can play Albany and get 10,000 or 12,000 [people], that's really exciting for a mid-major program."