Brett Bisping

Siena primed for a return to prominence?

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Some may snark that the College Basketball Invitational isn’t a true postseason tournament, but the CBI affords teams to continue their season for up to six games, furthering development especially for teams chock full of underclassmen. For the two finalists in this season’s CBI — Fresno State and Siena — those six games were crucial: both teams are among the least experienced in DI (only ten teams had fewer returning minutes than Siena), and the extra games allowed both Rodney Terry and Jimmy Patsos more minutes to work with their teams before the offseason starts. After a deadlocked start to the tournament, the deciding game tilted in the Saints’ favor, and the MAAC squad took the 2014 CBI title, 81-68.

It has been some time since Siena was a factor in the MAAC race. When Fran McCaffery left Loudonville for Iowa, the program was turned over to longtime assistant Mitch Buonaguro, and while Buonaguro struggled to keep the squad relevant in conference play (Siena never finished above .500 during his three seasons), he did bring some talent to the school. As Patsos noted during the finale’s post-game presser, “Mitch Buonaguo left us some good players.”

More importantly, those good players are, for the moment, all returning next season. The team is bereft of seniors, and the team’s most efficient and high usage players — Lavon Long, Brett Bisping, and Rob Poole — are all scheduled to be back. Siena was picked to finish ninth (out of eleven squads) in the MAAC’s preseason poll, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Saints are ranked in the top half of the league in 2014-15. Siena isn’t a dark-horse — as evidenced by their CBI performances, this team isn’t sneaking up on anyone — and an extra offseason and year under Patsos’ tutelage should further transform this team into one that could easily challenge Manhattan, Quinnipiac, and Iona for the league title.

Louisville campus police reviewing escort allegations

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Louisville campus police now say they are reviewing allegations that a former men’s basketball staffer hired escorts to dance and have sex with recruits and players in a dormitory.

Katina Powell has alleged in a book released online over the weekend that former Cardinals director of basketball operation Andre McGee paid her $10,000 for dancers to perform 22 shows from 2010-14 at the players’ Billy Minardi Hall dormitory. The school reported those allegations to the NCAA and has launched an investigation.

“The University of Louisville Police Department, in consultation with the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, is reviewing allegations regarding the men’s basketball program,” University police chief Wayne Hall said Tuesday in a statement.

It was the first confirmation that police are looking into the allegations. When contacted last week, a campus police operator said they weren’t aware of the book allegations, and it was unclear at that time if an investigation had been launched.

Cardinals coach Rick Pitino has said that McGee denied Powell’s allegations.

McGee left in 2014 and is currently an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City, which has put him on paid leave.

Pitino said Saturday that he hasn’t read Powell’s book titled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” and doesn’t plan to. The 104-page book was published by an affiliate of the Indianapolis Business Journal and is scheduled for hardcover release Oct. 12.

The woman said that she and three of her daughters, along with other women, danced and stripped for Louisville recruits and players and performed sex acts with them, according to the book. Powell, 43, also said McGee offered recruits alcohol at those parties.

Upon hearing of the allegations, Pitino said he did some investigating on his own before being told by the school’s compliance department not to talk to players. But the coach said he talked to other assistants about the allegations and all of them denied knowing of the activities outlined in Powell’s book.

“I’m going through 15 people who worked here, and not one person even had a premonition of something wrong,” Pitino said. “Not one person living in the dorm had even the slightest premonition. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Louisville has hired Chuck Smrt of the Compliance Group, which assists schools in NCAA cases, to review the allegations.

McGee left Louisville in 2014 to become an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City under Kareem Richardson, who was a Cardinals assistant from 2012-13. He was placed on paid administrative on Friday and has been unavailable for comment. McGee’s Louisville attorney, Scott Cox, didn’t comment because the investigation is ongoing.

St. John’s hires Mitch Richmond as a special assistant

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St. John’s added its second Hall of Famer to the coaching staff on Tuesday, announcing Mitch Richmond had been hired as a special assistant to first-year head coach Chris Mullin.

Mullin and Richmond, along with Tim Hardaway, made up Run TMC, the short-lived, high-scoring offense the Golden State Warriors played from 1989-91.

Mullin was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 2011. Three years later, he was a presenter to Richmond’s enshrinement in Springfield.

“Mitch is committed to helping us build this program and develop an environment for sustained success at St. John’s,” Mullin said in a statement. “He has tremendous basketball insight, a vision for the game and a passion to share his knowledge. Obviously, his experience in different roles throughout his career as a player, scout and mentor will have an impact in many areas.”

Earlier this summer, Mullin bolstered his coaching staff with the additions of associate head coach Barry Rohrssen and Matt Abdelmassih. Greg St. Jean was hired later in the summer.

The Red Storm open the 2015-16 season on Nov. 13 against Wagner.