There may be no silence in sports quite as profound as that of a losing locker room, especially after a loss that was one-sided and embarrassing. Jimmy Patsos let that silence linger for a few moments on Wednesday night after his Loyola basketball team had been soundly beaten, 63-49, by Marist in front of a crowd so tiny that no attendance was listed on the box score.
When Patsos finally spoke, he did so quietly, but with a passion not all that different from Gary Williams, his boss for the previous 13 years at Maryland. His decibel level might have been different than Williams's, but his message was not.
Former Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos, in his first year at Loyola, is trying to get the Greyhounds men's program pointed upward after the team went 1-27 last year.
(Matt Gentry -- Roanoke Times Via AP)
_____Game of the Week_____
No. 3 North Carolina at No. 4 Wake Forest, 1:30 p.m. today
This Tobacco Road thriller is the "Gone With the Wind" of college basketball: There's no sequel to this classic. Because of ACC expansion, the North Carolina schools play only once during the regular season after meeting at least twice in every season since 1922 (the Demon Deacons didn't field a team in 1944 because of World War II). If both teams are really as good as they look, there's a good chance they could meet again in the ACC tournament final at MCI Center or at the Final Four in St. Louis. The Tar Heels have played like the ACC's best team during the past month, beating Virginia Tech by 34 points, Maryland by 34 and No. 8 Georgia Tech by 22 on Wednesday night. The Demon Deacons have won nine games in a row; the Tar Heels have won 14 games in a row. The game features two of the nation's best point guards, Carolina's Raymond Felton and Wake's Chris Paul, and two of the ACC's best big men, Tar Heels junior Sean May and Demon Deacons junior Eric Williams.
_____Top Five Mid-Majors_____
1. George Washington (11-2): Colonials should cruise until a four-game stretch at the end of the month that includes games at Richmond, at home against Xavier and Dayton, and at Temple on Feb. 5.
2. Gonzaga (12-3): Zags won't walk through the West Coast Conference this year; lost at Saint Mary's (Calif.), 89-81, on Jan. 8.
3. Southern Illinois (13-3): Salukis won toughest road test in Missouri Valley Conference, winning at Creighton, 69-63, last Sunday.
4. Hawaii (10-2): The Rainbow Warriors could be eyeing 24 victories.
5. Wichita State (11-1): The Shockers' only loss was a 64-59 loss to Manhattan on Jan. 3.
Temple is off to a 2-0 start in the mediocre Atlantic 10 and undoubtedly will receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament if it finishes with a winning record in the league. The Owls (6-6) had an RPI ranking of 19 entering this week, thanks to the second-toughest schedule in the nation. Temple's nonconference schedule included road games at Georgetown, South Carolina, Alabama and Duke, and the Owls will play at Maryland today. Temple played Auburn, Arizona State, Pennsylvania, Wake Forest and Princeton at home and played Villanova at the Palestra. Senior guard Mardy Collins is one of the most underrated players in the country, averaging 17 points and 4.3 assists and leading Division I with 3.8 steals. As usual, Temple is taking care of the basketball meticulously, averaging 9.2 turnovers.
"I'm gonna tell you something right now, fellas," he said, his voice a bit hoarse from screaming during the game. "You aren't getting anywhere in life -- forget basketball -- in life without emotion. I asked you to do things when I took this job: play hard and have fun. The two go hand in hand. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think that team we just played is any better than us. We're 2-11, fellas, 2-11. I keep hearing people say that we could be .500. Well, I'm tired of hearing that. Here's what we are: 2-11. Think about that. I think you're better than that. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm new at this, so I'm learning as I go.
"But I do know this: The Bad News Bears weren't any good until they got emotional." He paused. "Of course, they lost. But at least they competed."
Right now, competing is a pretty good first step for Patsos and Loyola, which improved to 3-11 with a 70-68 victory over Canisius on Friday night.
In four seasons under Scott Hicks, the Greyhounds went 16-97, including 1-27 last season. The last time Loyola had a winning record was in 1994, when Skip Prosser went 17-13 and led the school to its only NCAA tournament appearance during his one season there.
"The last two years, even though we've had success in some other sports, the way we've played has just been really deadening around here," Athletic Director Joe Boylan said. "I liked Jimmy's enthusiasm and the fact that he really wanted this job. That told me that maybe we had more potential than some people thought because there were other jobs he could have had along the way. Emerson said nothing good in life is done without enthusiasm. We know now we've got that."
If Patsos learned nothing else during his years at Maryland, it is the need to be relentless: relentless in recruiting; relentless in practice and in planning practice; relentless in figuring out every possible edge for your team and your program. He knows there are no quick fixes from 1-27, especially with a team that depends heavily on a sophomore point guard and two freshman starters who were available to Loyola last spring because they had no other Division I offers.
"I have to be very careful with this group," Patsos said after his semi-tirade Wednesday. "The older kids have been through so much. It's almost like they've been damaged emotionally by all the losing. And I can't go off on the freshmen. They've played 13 college games. They have a bad night, I can't kill them."
He sat back and let out a deep breath. "Tell you what, though," he said. "This ain't easy."
Patsos knew it wasn't going to be easy when he got here. Wednesday's game matched two young coaches in similar circumstances: Patsos, 38, has been to the very top of the college basketball world, the number one assistant on a national championship team, working at a school with unlimited resources and facilities befitting basketball royalty. His counterpart at Marist, Matt Brady, 39, arrived last spring from Saint Joseph's, fresh off an exhilarating 30-2 season that came up one spin of the ball shy of the Final Four.
As might be expected, a good deal of Williams has rubbed off on Patsos. Loyola runs the exact same plays Maryland runs, complete with the same calls and the same numbering system. "We've got one more pick-and-roll play than they do," he said. "And one out-of-bounds play that's different."
Patsos works the officials throughout the game, mixing anger with humor. "I guess you don't get that call in your first year, huh?" he said to official Brian O'Connell after what he thought was a clear blocking foul was no-called. Some of his other comments weren't as printable. "The last guy never complained," Patsos said at one point. "And he got fired."