Embattled Siena men's basketball coach Jimmy Patsos defended himself Friday against recent allegations that he verbally abused a team manager and withheld per diem payments to his players.
At a news conference called by Patsos and his attorney, Dick Walsh, near the upstate New York school, the former Loyola Maryland coach and longtime Maryland assistant said he never taunted, harassed or abused the manager, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. Patsos said he had a good relationship with the manager and his family and that he was "greatly surprised" by the complaint reportedly filed with the university in February.
"I am not angry or anything at him," Patsos said. "I wish I could hug him. I am not allowed to hug him right now. We constantly got affirmations from him and his family about how he was doing and loved the program. It made me so happy."
Patsos said the manager, who has not been identified while the school investigates the allegations with the help of outside legal representation, was given the same tasks as other managers and was "bantering and teasing" with team members and staff.
"I absolutely love this guy. I thought he did a great job for us," Patsos said. "He actually became and still is a favorite of mine. I always tried to mentor him because he wants to become a coach and developed a strong bond between us. … I often called him my No. 2 man."
The allegations were first reported Thursday by the (Albany) Times Union, which also reported that Patsos withheld the per diem for his players on a few occasions last season based on the team's performance. Siena finished 8-24, the worst record in Patsos' five years at the school.
"I have no knowledge about these reports," Patsos said. "The distribution and accounting for monies have been handled by my assistant coaches and the business manager at Siena. I am not involved in this situation. … I don't touch the money. I get in line just like any other player."
The Times Union reported that players were told on one occasion that the per diem was used to pay a bar tab at a hotel in Charleston, S.C.
"Neither I nor, to my knowledge, any of my [assistant] coaches ever used a player's or manager's per diem for personal expenses," Patsos said.
Patsos, who has three years left on his contract, doesn't appear to have any plans to resign.
"We could be really good next year," he said. "Our players coming back are very good. We were just so close this year. I know the losses hurt. I know things didn't go so well on the court at the end. Maybe that drives people to look at that, say something's wrong with the program."
Patsos was asked whether he thought this situation would have come to light had the team's win-loss record been reversed.
"I can't answer that question," Patsos said. "Infringing on anyone's rights is not OK. … Oppression of any kind is wrong. If it was 24-8, I would never let anything happen to this manager. That's not OK. I love this kid."
But Patsos' attorney had another thought: "That is an interesting question. It's one that we raised," Walsh said, before ending the news conference.