"Well, no, but later . . . "
On Wednesday night, as has been the case most of this season, Patsos just coached. When a key call went against his team midway through the second half, he started to say something, but thought better of it; he started to yank his jacket off, but thought better of it; and walked behind the bench to pour himself a cup of water.
"I like the kids on this team," he said later. "I think they've really come together as a group of people in the last month and they've played hard most of the time and worked hard. Tonight was frustrating. We lose a kid who'd been playing really well and we couldn't overcome it."
The player lost was freshman Justin Drummond, whose playing time and role had increased steadily and who is probably the team's best three-point shooter. He pulled a trapezoid muscle in his back during a one-on-one drill on Tuesday and, after trying to warm up Wednesday, told Patsos he simply couldn't raise his arm above his head - which makes it hard to play basketball.
When he found out that Drummond couldn't go, Patsos told his players he needed someone to "pull a Willis Reed," a reference to the injured Knicks center's famous late entrance just before the start of Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.
"I looked at the guys when I said that and I realize none of them had ever heard of Willis Reed," Patsos said, laughing. "Ruined my whole pregame talk."
Rider ruined his night with an unconscious second-half shooting performance (62 percent) that allowed it to overcome some remarkably bad ballhandling.
The loss dropped Loyola to 13-13 and, more important, 9-7 in the conference. The Greyhounds rebounded with a 75-57 nonconference win over Towson on Saturday. Even if they lose twice on the road next week, the lowest they will be seeded when the MAAC tournament begins in two weeks is sixth.
With two wins they could move up to third.
"The seeding doesn't matter," Patsos told his players. "What matters is we need to go up there and win three games. I believe you guys can do that. I really do."
He paused, and then the passionate Patsos came out again. "Have I ever told you guys that playing for me was going to be like having a vanilla ice cream cone? Or did I tell you it was going to be a roller coaster and you better be ready to hang on for dear life? You didn't hang on tonight, fellas. I know we missed Justin but you needed to hang on tight tonight and figure out a way to play just a little harder! But you couldn't do that. You just couldn't do that."
He ran his hand through the graying hair. "Okay, none of us is perfect, right?" He looked at Brian Rudolph, his only senior starter. "I'm yelling Brian, I know. I wanted your last home game to be a win so I'm frustrated.
"But I've yelled less this year, haven't I?"
"Yes, you have, Coach," Rudolph said. "A lot less."
Baby steps. A reason to celebrate.
For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.