ALBANY Jimmy Patsos began his first press conference as a winning coach at Siena by describing how he came home from Philadelphia on Saturday to find water leaking through his roof all over the house.
As we’ve come to learn, be patient, this will head in a pertinent direction eventually.
It may have been a similar feeling on Tuesday night, when his front line leaked players from the court to the sideline over and over.
First it was starting center Javion Ogunyemi, who appeared to roll his ankle less than four minutes into the game and never returned.
Then Imoh Silas fouled out with 13:02 left in the game, and Lavon Long picked up his fifth with 3:31 on the clock against St. Bonaventure.
Left holding the bucket was Brett Bisping.
When Siena needed him the most, the 6-foot-8, 233-pound sophomore forward from Peoria, Ill., came up with what had to be the best game of his short time here.
Besides a career-high 13 points, Bisping had seven rebounds and played 29 minutes, well over his career average, while tangling with the Bonnies’ muscular 7-footer, Youssou Ndoye, all night.
Perhaps most importantly, Bisping nailed a three-pointer from the left wing to answer what was starting to be a huge momentum swing for St. Bonaventure late in the game.
Afterward, Patsos called Bisping’s game “inspirational,” and compared him to Bill Laimbeer as a means of compliment.
“The first thing I did when I came here was meet him, and he said, ‘I’m a Bulls fan, and I like Michael Jordan.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’re the dumbest guy I know, because you pretty much don’t have anything in common with him,’ ” Patsos said.
“You’re kind of a slow, plodding forward? How about Bill Laimbeer? He didn’t know who Bill Laimbeer was. So I made him look up Laimbeer, and he came back and said, ‘Hey, I think I can be like that guy.’ The one thing Laimbeer did that no one talked about was he was a better shooter than people think. He had that tiptoe jumper.”
Siena beat St. Bonaventure, 72-70, on Marquis Wright’s ridiculous high runner that rattled through with two-tenths of a second left, but never would have been in that position without Bisping.
Junior Rob Poole had been carrying the Saints for the last two games, but was nearly non-existent against St. Bonaventure, finishing 1-for-8 from the field, including 1-for-6 from three-point range.
By far Siena’s leading scorer, at 19.3 points per game through the first three games, he finished with four points in 28 minutes.
Desperately needing a big shot, Bisping was the one to deliver it.
Andell Cumberbatch made one of two free throws after Long fouled out with 3:31 left, giving the Bonnies what would be their only lead of the second half, 66-65.
Siena looked to get a shot for guard Evan Hymes, but he kicked it out to Bisping on the left wing.
Not willing to stray too far from the paint, Ndoye was nowhere near Bisping when he shot, and it was nothing but net for a 68-66 lead.
“We set a ball screen for Evan, and they both ran at him thinking he was going to come off and shoot it,” Bisping said. “Evan made a selfless play, a great pass and I was wide open and just happened to hit it.”
Bisping’s personality will never be mistaken for that of Laimbeer, one half of the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys, with Rick Mahorn.
They were key figures in the Pistons’ “Jordan Rules” designed to make life miserable for Jordan.
But legendary former Maryland coach Gary Williams, for whom Patsos was an assistant for 13 seasons, saw something in Bisping when he visited a practice in the preseason.
“Gary Williams really liked Brett Bisping,” Patsos said. “He told him, ‘If you get a little crazier, you could be a real good player.’ After 20 minutes of practice, he said, ‘That kid’s funny, because I can tell he’s smart, I can tell he listens, but I can tell he wants to grind.’ Nobody wants to grind.
“So good for him. I thought his play was inspirational.”
Bisping played all but two minutes of the second half, out of necessity, but also because he was playing so well.
Patsos’ only other option was 6-10 Michael Wolfe, and Patsos said he didn’t want to throw a freshman into that fire.
That left it to Bisping, who chose Siena over offers from Lehigh, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Brown.
He held his own against Ndoye and drew a travel on the St. Bonaventure center with 9.5 seconds left as Ndoye got the ball on the block and tried to back his way in for what could have been the winning basket.
Instead, Wright hit his runner at the other end.
“You can’t let him bully you,” Bisping said. “He’s taller, maybe more athletic, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about heart and playing hard.”
And hitting shots.
Bisping was 10-for-27 (.370) from three-point range last season, and is 5-for-11 this year after making one of two against the Bonnies.
There’s nothing flashy about his game, but that’s what they need out of him. They need Bisping to plug some holes, and he did that on Tuesday.
“When I’m in the game, I just have to play solid,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good players on this team, and we have our scorers. I just need to do the dirty work, rebound, play my role.
“As far as stepping up when they needed me because of a lot of foul trouble, I feel like I did what was needed, and that’s always what I’m going to be here to do.”
“Inspirational. Inspirational,” Patsos said. “I’ve been on Brett, because he can take it. He’s got a good family, good values. Now, if Brett wants to shoot jumpers . . . well, everybody does.”