ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Although the search for a new coach took longer than many expected, Siena knew it had the right man for the job as soon as school officials met with Mount St. Mary’s coach Jamion Christian.
That happened eight days ago, and on Wednesday Christian was named to succeed Jimmy Patsos.
“I’ll be honest, I never knew this opportunity would be there for me,” Christian said at an afternoon news conference at Times Union Center in downtown Albany where the Saints play their home games.
“I was really excited for the chance to coach these guys, just give me an opportunity to continue with my passion, to help lead young people and help them become the best versions of themselves.”
Christian received a five-year contract with Siena; details were not released. He was under contract at Mount St. Mary’s, his alma mater, through 2026-27.
Christian spent the past six seasons at Mount St. Mary’s and leaves with a 101-95 record with NCAA Tournament appearances in 2014 and 2017. Christian previously served as an assistant for one year at Virginia Commonwealth, three seasons at William & Mary, and two seasons at Emory & Henry. He also was director of basketball operations for two years at Bucknell.
Christian takes over a team that went 8-24 under Patsos last season, the program’s third-worst showing since it moved to Division I 42 years ago and its third straight losing season.
Patsos resigned April 13 amid a wide-ranging investigation by the school that unearthed allegations of problems ranging from abusive conduct to financial improprieties within the men’s basketball program.
Mount St. Mary’s finished 67-39 overall in Northeast Conference play during the tenure of the 36-year-old Christian. He’ll bring with him to Siena his so-called “Mount Mayhem” style of play, built on pressure defense and the 3-point shot. This past season, the Mountaineers were ranked 19th nationally in 3-pointers (10.1 per game), 34th in turnover margin (plus-2.7), and 49th in 3-point field goal shooting (37.9 percent).
“We’re coming at you. We’re going to be in attack mode,” Christian said as several Siena players looked on. “I told these guys today, we’re going to be the best-conditioned team in the country. I love their hunger to get it right. Meeting with them, they really had a chip on their shoulder. All great teams have a chip on their shoulder from day one and these guys have that.”
Under Christian, Mount St. Mary’s lost to Albany in the play-in round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and in 2017 defeated New Orleans in the First Four before getting eliminated by top-seeded Villanova.
The Saints have not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since the days of Fran McCaffery, who led them to three straight appearances (2008-10) during his five-year tenure before leaving for Iowa. Patsos guided Siena to the CBI title in his first season and also posted a pair of 20-win seasons.
“Siena has a great basketball tradition,” said Christian, his fiancee and 5-year-old son at his side. “If you’re a coach and you have a passion and an enthusiasm to achieve greatness, you want to find a place that has tradition.
“The history gives you an idea of what you can achieve. Every year around March you’re looking at teams that have a chance to play meaningful games, and I just really felt like Siena College had an opportunity to do that.”
Since Patsos resigned, three freshmen have been granted their releases from the program but could decide to return. Christian said he would reach out to them - most likely after he gets married on Saturday and takes a weeklong honeymoon.
One who’s not going anywhere was impressed.
“He’s a very genuine guy, down to earth,” junior forward Evan Fisher said. “He seems like somebody who’s very easy to work with.”
Christian is the third new men’s basketball coach hired in the past month in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, joining John Dunne at Marist and Shaheen Holloway at St. Peter’s.
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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