- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PITTSBURGH — In the formative days of his coaching career, Jimmy Patsos‘ days were a blur. Mornings and afternoons were spent in Maryland’s basketball office, his nights working at the Third Edition in Georgetown.

It was a world filled with interesting people, perhaps none more outsized than Patsos himself. It was apropos, then, that he once provided a ride from the airport to one of the zany coaching characters from a generation earlier.

Al McGuire was curious how Patsos was getting by as a restricted-earnings coach, a gig every bit as lucrative as its title suggests. Patsos replied that he tended bar.

“He says, ‘You’re going to be fine. My mother owned a bar. You drive a cab, you own a bar, you’ll learn how to deal with people. This is a great situation,’ ” Patsos recalled this week.

A couple decades later, Patsos‘ situation remains great. After eight years, he has hauled Loyola from a one-win outfit to the NCAA tournament. The 15th-seeded Greyhounds (24-8) will play their first NCAA tournament game since 1994 on Thursday when they meet second-seeded Ohio State (27-7) at Consol Energy Center.

Loyola possesses a strong mix of talent. It is deep. It often looks like a midmajor mimic of Gary Williams‘ Maryland teams, running the flex offense and the same pressing schemes the Terrapins used in their halcyon days.

Yet the greatest element Patsos poured into rebuilding Loyola arguably was his own personality, an unvarnished approach that rings true. It can be many things: provocative and profane, worldly and wacky. But it is always authentic.

“He’s a great people person,” said Rodney Elliott, who played forward at Maryland in the mid-1990s, when Patsos was an assistant. “He knows how to talk to you and not [mess with] you — talk to you straight, man to man, face to face, give you what it is and allow you to see what it is you need to do to get to this next level, on the basketball court, in the classroom and in life, period.”

Passion and energy

Joe Boylan, then Loyola’s athletic director, needed a new basketball coach in 2004. He had interviewed Patsos as a favor to Williams a few years earlier and had come away impressed. With the job open again, he sought the counsel of the only man to take the Greyhounds to the NCAA tournament before this month.

The late Skip Prosser stitched together that postseason run in 1994, staying at the Baltimore school for one year before leaving for Xavier. He thrived later at Wake Forest, and it was in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he and Boylan discussed the right fit for his old job.

“He said, ‘If you could get Jimmy, he would be the perfect guy,’ ” Boylan recalled. “That’s kind of where we were. We needed something that would really change things.”

Patsos was certain to provide it for a program coming off a 1-27 season. Working at Maryland for 13 years had prepared him for the basketball aspect. His time at the Third Edition had ensured he was ready for just about everything else.

His fellow bartenders were law school and medical school students and also stockbrokers eager to find new clients in creative ways. It was an eclectic mix of people juggling jobs while trying to rise in their respective professions.

“I learned a lot about life in that bar,” Patsos said. “I met a lot of cool people. I wasn’t in some dive gin joint. This is a nice place. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria [Shriver] used to eat in there. The guy from the Foo Fighters [Dave Grohl] came in all the time. That was the good part.”

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