Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jimmy Patsos: "Take the #$%@ ball inside!"

With Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos making news recently -- first for his brilliant decision to double-team Davidson's Stephen Curry for an entire game last week and then for the letter he wrote to Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser defending the strategy -- I'm reminded of this column in Sports Illustrated from 2004. In it, Rick Reilly captured what it was like to be on the Maryland bench alongside Gary Williams during a second round NCAA tournament game against Syracuse. Reilly describes the scene after the Orange took a 6-4 lead:
"Beside himself because his players won't attack the 'Cuse zone, the 59-year-old Williams turns salmon pink. He wheels on his assistant coach, Jimmy Patsos, and hollers, "You dumb mother [deleted on delay]! Make them take the ball inside!"

Why does he scream at Patsos? Because it's scream or herniate, and Williams doesn't want to scream at the Maryland players on the court. In his 13 years with Williams, Patsos has been fired more times than Donald Trump's barber. But he never actually leaves. "I know he doesn't mean it," Patsos says. "He's one of my best friends in the world."

Shortly after the column ran, Patsos was hired to take over a Loyola (Md.) program that was coming off a 1-27 season. The Greyhounds won a school record 19 games last season, but are off to a 2-6 start this year. Loyola closes 2008 with back-to-back games at North Carolina State and Duke, two places where Patsos should feel plenty comfortable. The only difference is now he's the one calling his assistants dumb mother [deleted on delay]. I won't be surprised if Loyola leaves the Tarheel State with a win -- while the double-team strategy failed, Patsos might consider not guarding Duke's Greg Paulus -- and then contends for the MAAC title. An NCAA tournament rematch with Davidson would be amazing.

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