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Rick Pitino denies report he’s interested in Siena job


In a perfectly executed Friday news dump, Siena announced at 4:30 p.m. that head coach Jimmy Patsos was parting ways with the university as the result of an investigation into verbal abuse that turned into an investigation into the improper use of per diem by the Saints coaching staff.

But that’s not what’s interesting about the Siena opening.

What’s interesting is that the Albany Times-Union quoted Roddy Valente, a man that co-owns the Kentucky Oaks contender Coach Rocks along with Rick Pitino, said Pitino “wants to discuss the opening with Siena officials.”

Pitino was fired by Louisville in late-September as a result of the investigation into corruption in college basketball by the FBI, which came right on the heels of the Louisville program being forced to take down the 2013 national title banner due to a scandal involving strippers and hookers that were used as a recruiting tool by a member of Pitino’s staff.

Pitino denied the report to the Louisville Courier-Journal, but perhaps what’s more interesting is that Valente was also quoted as saying that Pitino has turned down two jobs that he was offered already.

It’s long been thought that Patrick Beilein, John Beilein’s son and the current head coach at Division II Le Moyne, was the front runner for the job. Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara has also had his name floated as a potential replacement for Patsos.

Missouri lands transfer from Braggin’ Rights rival Illinois

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Mark Smith is finally going to be heading to Missouri, three years after committing to play baseball there and one year after enrolling at Missouri’s Braggin’ Rights rival Illinois for basketball.

As a freshman with the Illini, Smith, a 6-foot-4 combo-guard and a former top 60 recruit, averaged 5.8 points before transferring out of the program this offseason. He committed to Missouri on Saturday night.

Smith was once considered a better baseball prospect than a basketball prospect, when he was a right-handed pitcher with a fastball that touched the 90s, and even committed to the Tigers. But after an elbow injury in high school, he opted to focus on basketball, where he was initially a mid-major prospect before exploding as a senior.

He joins Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett, K.J. Santos and Xavier Pinson in Missouri’s 2018 recruiting class

Jimmy Patsos fired by Siena after allegations of abuse, improper use of per diem funds

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Jimmy Patsos four-year run as the head coach of Siena has come to a close.

On Friday afternoon, the Saints announced that they had come to an agreement where Jimmy Patsos would resign as head coach as the school bought out the final three years of his contract.

Siena went 8-24 this season, which tied for the most losses in program history, but it was not the issues on the court that got Patsos fired.

Patsos was under investigation for verbally abusing a student manager with OCD — a formal complaint was reportedly filed in February of this year — and a report from the Albany Times-Union alleged that Patsos withheld per diem payments from members of the program and, during a film session, shoved a player out of their chair.

Patsos has always been known for his fiery demeanor and somewhat quirky ways. He went and say in the stands after receiving a technical foul in a game in 2008 and, when he was the head coach at Loyola-Maryland, once played a triangle-and-2 defense on Davidson’s Stephen Curry, holding Steph scoreless in a game his team lost by 30.

Kentucky’s Diallo expected to declare for NBA draft

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Hamidou Diallo is expected to declare for the NBA draft and hire an agent, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

This decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it does provide the next batch of potential pros a blueprint for what not to do.

Diallo graduated high school after the 2015-16 season and, after spending the first semester as a postgrad during the 2016-17 season, enrolled at Kentucky as a redshirt in the second semester. He was then eligible to declare for the 2017 NBA Draft and, despite being thought of as a late-first round pick, opted to instead enroll at Kentucky and play out the season.

That did not go anywhere near as well as planned. Diallo averaged 10 points and 3.6 boards while shooting just 33 percent from beyond the arc, although those numbers might be flattering in comparison to what his performance was. The 6-foot-5 off-guard spent much of the second half of the season as a candidate to get benched, and eventually became a rotation piece for the Wildcats as it became clear that their best perimeter attack included Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Quade Green.

If anything, Diallo’s experience proves that leaving for the NBA when your stock is the highest is, generally speaking, the best move for these players to make.

Diallo is an exception athlete with all of the measureables that scouts love. He’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, dynamic athleticism and the build that should allow him to defend three positions at the next level. His issues is two-fold: He still is a question mark on the offensive end of the floor, as his jumper is not yet consistent and he struggles to create points on his own, and while he is a playmaker defensively, he still is learning the positional elements of the game on that side of the ball.

There is potential here, but it is going to take some time for Diallo to reach that potential.

As of now, he’s projected as a second round pick. He joins Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox as players that have signed with agents off this Kentucky team. P.J. Washington announced that he will be testing the waters while Nick Richards already made clear that he is returning to school; Sacha Killeya-Jones is transferring. With the incoming freshmen included, this is what Kentucky’s depth chart looks like for next season:

PGs: Quade Green, Immanuel Quickley

Wings: Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Jemarl Baker

Bigs: P.J. Washington*, Wenyen Gabriel, E.J. Montgomery, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards

Arizona unveils statue of Lute Olson

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On Thursday, Arizona unveiled the newest addition to the McKale Center: A statue of legendary head coach Lute Olson.

Olson is a Hall Of Famer that spent 24 years as the head coach of the Wildcats, an era that spanned from 1983 through 2007. In the statue, he is holding the 1997 NCAA Championship trophy:

“He forever changed the trajectory and perception of our athletics department,” Dave Heeke, Arizona’s Director of Athletics, said of Olson, who led the Wildcats to four Final Four in his 24 years. “His legendary status is worthy of this honor.”

Penny Hardaway lands second Memphis-native in three weeks

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For the second time in just three weeks as the head coach of the Memphis Tigers, Penny Hardaway did something that Tubby Smith wasn’t able to do: land a commitment from a top 150 prospect from the city of Memphis.

On Friday, it was Tyler Harris, a 5-foot-9 point guard, that committed to the Tigers over the likes of Iowa State and Baylor. Three weeks ago, it was Alex Lomax, a point guard that had signed an NLI with Wichita State, that got out of his commitment and pledged to the Tigers.

There are a couple of reasons that this is intriguing.

For starters, suddenly Memphis is attracting talent again, and Memphis having a good, relevant basketball team is just good for the sport of college basketball as a whole. If Penny can figure things out at Memphis and Danny Hurley figures things out at UConn all while SMU, Cincinnati and Wichita State remain consistently in the mix for the NCAA tournament, we’re looking at the AAC being a strong league, particularly at the top.

That’s good.

What’s even more interesting is the amount of talent in the city of Memphis that is associated with Penny, from James Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019, to D.J. Jeffries, a five-star recruit currently committed to Kentucky, to the last two Lawson brothers. Getting Lomax and Harris are good building blocks and program recruits. Getting those other kids, however, is what puts Memphis back on the map.

We’ll see how it all plays out.