Jimmy Patsos, whose Loyola team won MAAC championship last year, sees their title defense end after one game, falling to Manhattan in tournament quarterfinals in Greyhounds' conference swan song before joining Patriot League next season. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)
The man whose larger-than-life personality, gregarious nature and self-deprecating humor made press conferences in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference enjoyable and entertaining over the past nine years is now a part of its storied history after his team; the reigning conference champions, was defeated in the opening game of its title defense in its final season as one of the MAAC's ten member institutions.
Jimmy Patsos, the charismatic and down-to-earth head coach of Loyola University saw his team's bid to exit the MAAC on a winning note and repeat as conference champions end after just one game, a 55-52 loss to Manhattan College last night in the second upset of the quarterfinal round, following Fairfield's 43-42 victory over Rider. Patsos' Greyhounds will depart the MAAC, a conference with which Loyola has been affiliated since 1989, in favor of the Patriot League as of July 1st.
"I'm really going to miss the MAAC," Patsos said following Loyola's 90-86 defeat nine days ago at the hands of Iona. "Great conference, great people. They were really good to me." After last night's elimination at the hands of Manhattan, a team the Greyhounds swept in the regular season, Patsos wrapped up his press conference with these words:
"Rich Ensor (the MAAC commissioner) has been nothing but a good guy and a friend, and a mentor; and the MAAC's been a great league, and we're really going to miss you."
And so it goes for the former assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland, the man largely responsible for recruiting such stars as Steve Francis, Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Steve Blake to College Park, where he was on Williams' staff for thirteen years; a tenure highlighted by the Terrapins' 2002 national championship, before accepting the Loyola job in 2004 on the heels of a one-win campaign the season before.
"I thought Jimmy Patsos got this conference national recognition by himself," Manhattan coach Steve Masiello; who was an assistant at Manhattan under Bobby Gonzalez when Patsos got his start at Loyola, said after last night's game. "The job he's done at Loyola is the best job I've seen any coach do in this conference."
Patsos, the eccentric yet lovable coach who used the Black Panthers as a motivational tool for his team at halftime of last year's MAAC championship game that the Greyhounds eventually won, was held in high regard by everyone he came into contact with, something that is rarely seen these days; not just in sports, but life as well.
"I think he has been the ultimate brand mark of what coaches should be in this conference," Masiello continued to say last night. "He has fire, he has passion, he compliments everyone, I look up to him tremendously, and I think he's a terrific, terrific basketball coach; and he's going to be missed because he is a guy that, nationally, got our conference out there, and I take my hat off to him for that."
Following the press conference, Patsos thanked everyone in attendance, even telling me personally: "Thanks for everything. I'll miss you."
Right back at you, Jimmy. Thank you for everything you've done and given to not just myself, but everyone associated with college basketball over the past nine years. The game is much better and much more fun to cover when people like you make it worth our while. Thank you again, and I am sure we will come across one another again somewhere down the road. All the best in life until then.
Jimmy Patsos' postgame press conference following Loyola's 55-52 loss to Manhattan in the quarterfinals of the 2013 MAAC Tournament: (video of what could be Patsos' final press conference as a head coach in the MAAC comes courtesy of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)