Jimmy Patsos knows how much the Saints upcoming road trip means to his program.
The 48 year-old head coach in his second season at Siena, labels their trip to Baltimore to play Loyola (MD) and New York City to play Fordham, their “Jesuit road trip.” However it will also be a homecoming for Patsos, returning for the first time to a court he called his own for nine seasons at Reitz Arena.
“I love it at Loyola,” Patsos said. “I’m friends with the President. I still text with the AD [Jim Paquette]. G.G. [Smith] and I are very close.”
After leaving the Siena job, Patsos unequivocally advocated that Smith should be given the job to build on what they did at Loyola, and said that the game will be uncomfortable, but that he likes playing his friends.
“It’s just a game, I like playing my friends because you get to see them,” Patsos said. “I don’t like it during the two hours of the game, it’s a weird feeling, but it’s a good game to play.”
This isn’t the first game Patsos has played against his friends already this season. He faced fellow Catholic University alum and friend John Becker in the team’s home opener, where the Catamounts got the better of the Saints each of the last two times. This most recent meeting wasn’t as thrilling as their last in 2013; when Patsos and Becker drew technical fouls, Marquis Wright and Maurice White drew technicals and Vermont’s Candon Rusin was ejected.
“It’s show business,” Patsos said said of the extracurricular activities, comparing it to a hockey game where after the game there is a mutual respect. “I root for Vermont and I check the scores every night. He’s one of the guys I root for, so yeah it’s weird, it’s no big deal though.”
Siena and Loyola (MD) signed up for a two-year home and home series, one that Patsos would like to continue should their schedules work out.
“In my mind, I would play Loyola every year,” Patsos said. “I would continue the series at Loyola forever because it’s a cool thing.”
The Saints were one of just three teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference not to participate in an exempt event this season, mainly because of previously scheduled return games to UMass and Radford that they were signed up for from the prior coaching staff. Next season they will play in the 2K Sports Classic and hope to get a trip to Georgetown, one of the participants, out of it to continue their ties to the DMV area.
“My AD and I get along well on scheduling, we were like let’s do something for the players,” Patsos said. “John D’Argenio and I get it, so we’re like what’s the next best thing we could do. Let’s go to Baltimore, so the kids can go home.”
The team has six players from the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area who went home for the short Thanksgiving break, so it made sense that the Saints assemble at Loyola for a practice Thursday night and resume play in Baltimore Saturday. It will also allow Patsos and his players to explore Baltimore for a few days, checking out Under Armour’s facility and seeing sights near the Inner Harbor.
“Definitely with coach Patsos going back to his old school and half the team being from the DMV going back home to play a game, it’s definitely a big game for them,” junior Ryan Oliver said. “We just want to, like any game, we want to make sure we go out and compete for 40 minutes.”
Those sights may change when Patsos takes his side on the opposing bench to a possibly not as friendly crowd as the opposing coach. However, he will be opposite his former assistant for six seasons in Smith and it will be good to know going up against a friend.
“We’re both lucky, we sit together on the road,” Patsos said. “We’re not going to share secrets night before the game or anything, but I bet you after the game we get a beer because we’re staying over.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.