Jimmy Patsos’s good year got even better Thursday when he was named MAAC coach of the year. And to think, it wasn’t that long ago that he was making headlines for some not-so-brilliant defense on Stephen Curry.
The Loyola (Md.) coach took his team to a 21-8 season, the first time the Greyhounds have ever hit the 20-win mark. It’d been a long time coming, too.
Patsos, now in his 8th season at Loyola, hit 18 wins in ’07, 19 in ‘08. The last three have been sub.-500 years, but after opening 8-1 and a strong start in MAAC play, 20 wins seemed inevitable.
There were a couple of hiccups at 19 – when the Greyhounds had just beaten league favorite Iona to take over first place – but blessed 20 came on Feb. 19 vs. Boston U. Manhattan a week later provided victory 21. They ended up second in the MAAC (beating Iona would’ve been a feat), but Patsos isn’t done.
In the past week, Patsos has pulled a new motivational card out of his Rolodex: Last year’s Saint Peter’s team. He is good friends with coach John Dunne, and seeing how last season the Peacocks turned a senior-laden team into a surprise NCAA entrant by winning the conference title, he’s tried to instill the same message: That this year’s Greyhounds team isn’t much different and that all it takes is a few good days.
It’s been 18 years since Loyola went to the NCAA Tournament. Patsos is thinking, the Greyhounds have already accomplished one improbable goal — why not make it two?
“It was just so bad here for so long,” Patsos said. “We’re not over the hump yet, but we’re closer.”
The Greyhounds open the MAAC tourney Saturday against the Niagara-Canisius winner.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.