Reintroducing Jimmy Patsos, Maryland's Potential New (and Old) Assistant Coach

via weblogs.baltimoresun.com

Most of us remember Jimmy Patsos' time at Maryland; he was in College Park for 13 years, after all, and just happened to be the #1 assistant when Maryland won the national title. Difficult to forget that little era.

But that was a long time before this blog started, and a somewhat long time ago period. So while Jimmy Patsos may or may not be coming back to town, we might as well take the time we have to reintroduce ourselves.

Now the first question on your mind might be, "If Jimmy Patsos has a D1 coaching job, why would he come back to be an assistant coach?" Simply, there's not much more reason for him to stay there. He took over an awful team (dead last in RPI, 1-27) and got them to three winning seasons in a row, but they've struggled mightily their past two seasons and haven't made any noise in the MAAC in his time there.

His ceiling there has likely been reached unless a turnaround begins again, and that probably isn't happening. In fact, it's more likely at this point that he would get fired in a few years than it is he would move up in the coaching ranks. When things are in that order, it's bad; the only reason you take a job at a school like that is to potentially move up to a better one. That now seems unlikely, so Patsos heading back to College Park makes sense; he can re-establish himself as a top assistant and maybe get back into the head coaching ranks at a better situation.

With that out of the way, let's flash back to Patsos' time at Maryland. He was widely considered one of the best assistants in the country; Andy Katz had him as a "Coach on the Rise", and most preseason magazines had him on their lists of top assistants. He spent the first 11 of his years in a "traditional" role: coaching, connecting with players, "supervising academic affairs", and so on. He served as the recruiting coordinator during his last two seasons.

I've read that he was considered the middle man between Gary Williams and the players, one of the few people on the planet that understands both Gary Williams and the 20-year-old. With all the talk of Gary only being able to recruit "Gary Guys", a presence like that on the team would be hugely helpful. He definitely has the reputation of being an extremely hard worker that loves Maryland almost as much as Gary; those two attributes can only be helpful.

He certainly knows Gary Williams, the atmosphere at Maryland, and the system he works with. That's important, probably moreso than you think; Maryland is very different from a lot of schools around the country. Think the Bias tragedy, the administration, the requirements on academics, the issues with the media; there would be a long transitionary period that Patsos cuts down on hugely. That means that, if it is Patsos, Maryland can start recruiting again right away.

For what it's worth, I haven't found much in the way of corroboration for that "players' coach" mentality - he certainly didn't have it in Loyola as a HC - but that's because I haven't found a ton from Patsos' time at Maryland in the first place. I don't have too much reason to doubt that Patsos could be that sort of middle-man, so for now I'll accept that as a possibility, though refrain from calling it fact.

One thing about the period is certain: it was one of Maryland's most successful ever. Hello: two Final Fours and a national championship. Keith Booth plays the role of Dave Dickerson and...Rob Ehsan as a Billy Hahn/Matt Kovarik combo? Maybe the staff doesn't match up perfectly, but I won't complain about trying to recreate that team and atmosphere.

The final two years that Patsos was at Maryland, his role changed from "traditional" coach to recruiting coordinator. While it remains to be seen if he's being hired to be the RC here or if that will be going to Rob Ehsan, his recruiting acumen needs to be looked at anyway.

His first season as RC netted Nik Caner-Medley, Chris McCray, John Gilchrist, and Travis Garrison. The last three were locals and highly-recruited; Garrison is the last player from DeMatha to go to Maryland (hopefully that will soon change to Mikael Hopkins) and went to the McDonald's All-American Game. The class, according to Maryland's official site, was ranked as high as fourth in the country. Of course, all four ended up getting hurt (NCM), flunking out (McCray), going insane (Gilchrist), or simply busting (Garrison). 

If that wasn't enough star power, Patsos' second class as Maryland's RC was, from a rankings perspective, sweet. Mike Jones, the #2 SG in the country behind LeBron James and the last Maryland commitment to go the McDonald's AA Game, was joined by Ekene Ibekwe, Hassan Fofana, Will Bowers, and D.J. Strawberry for what was probably the best recruiting class in terms of rankings that Maryland ever produced. All were highly-recruited, and all were top 150 prospects. It was ranked as high as #2 in the country; Rivals had it at #3 behind Oklahoma and Florida State.

Sadly, that class ended up being somewhat of a bust, too. Jones never lived up to the hype, Fofana transferred, and Bowers was ridiculously quiet. Strawberry was a definite success and Ibekwe wasn't bad, so the class wasn't an entire loss. 

Before you draw any conclusions, two caveats need to be mentioned. First, keep in mind that Maryland was coming off of two Final Fours and a national championship when these classes were landed. Highly ranked players, yes, but he had some ammo on his side. Second, when you look at the outcomes, keep in mind that the main recruiter and supposed "interference between players and Gary" guy left early, so you never know if GIlchrist would've gone nuts or if Garrison would've worked harder if Patsos stayed on.

Now, on to conclusion-drawing time: Patsos has proven that he can land awesome, big-time talent, regardless of rankings. Patsos has also proven that he can fail entirely when it comes to recruiting players that fit the culture at Maryland, where hard-working, hard-nosed players like Greivis Vasquez thrive. Neither conclusion is failproof; don't start expecting five-stars to fall out of the sky if Patsos comes on, and don't expect every recruit Maryland lands to be awful for the system. Just saying that both are possibilities.

One more thing: you'll notice that he landed two big guns from California, Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry. Maryland has moved out West recently (Pe'Shon Howard, Terrell Stoglin, Terrence Ross (kinda), Jabari Brown, Norvel Pelle) so a strength on the WC would be huge for Patsos. Very few East Coast schools could match up with Ehsan and Patsos for West Coast strength if Patsos actually has connections at places like Mater Dei and Carson.

Honestly, I have to say I have warmed up nicely to Patsos. The biggest thing for me is that he knows how to connect to Gary Williams, which is honestly so hit or miss that it makes any hire risky (see: Moxley, Rob; Adams, Michael). The fact that he's shown that he can get top players makes me calmer; the lesson about the system should've been learned, but it would be freeing if rankings happened to not be a limit.

Better than Driesell? No idea. But if it happens, I approve.

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