MacAdam: Siena quells mayhem with Maciariello

Quick turnover and instability in the men's basketball head coaching job mitigated by Siena grad's familiarity with program
Carmen Maciariello was named the new Siena men's basketball coach on Tuesday.
Carmen Maciariello was named the new Siena men's basketball coach on Tuesday.

ALBANY — It all looked so familiar — even repetitive — a Groundhog Day without “I Got You, Babe,” but with the soothing calm of the cascading rain curtain. Again. (I love the cascading rain curtain.)

One difference: Siena College president Br. Edward Coughlin, who came to Loudonville via St. Bonaventure, did not mistakenly refer to “Olean.” Hey, he’s coachable.

That’s what happened in the Times Union Center atrium just over 10 months ago, when Siena introduced its new men’s basketball coach, Jamion Christian. This time, Brother Ed got through his tidy presentation smoothly, and so did everybody else.

And that was pretty much the point.

Siena was performing a drill that seems routine now, introducing a new coach, Carmen Maciariello, Christian’s assistant who was hustled up in a promotion that made all the sense in the world turned upside down by Christian’s abrupt departure for George Washington University. But, really, Maciariello was not at all new — not to Siena or the greater Capital Region —  and the world wasn’t turned upside down so much as it was realigned on a slightly different axis.

If the trappings, protocols and procedures of the introductory press conference were much the same, the language and underlying theme were profoundly different from 2018’s. Whereas Christian was brought in to change … everything … Maciariello’s mission is to keep everything as much the same as it can be.

Not as a placeholder of a program that turned it around after an ugly eight-win 2017-18 that ended with Jimmy Patsos’ controversial resignation, but as the fresh spearhead.

Maciariello will put his own stamp on next year’s team, with all the experience to bear that he’s gained while serving under the likes of Joe Jones, Mike Lonergan, Ed Cooley and Siena’s own Fran McCaffery. And between his contributions as a recruiter and assistant coach, Maciariello’s stamp is already very much on this team, anyway.

That made him a no-brainer choice for a school whose brand and identity are locked in to basketball, but has experienced so much chaos in that department in recent years. Now, the natural move is toward stability and continuity of the success rekindled in one short season by Christian, and Maciariello is ready-made for the assignment.

In fact, if Christian turned out to be the kind of program-changer Siena believed him to be, they weren’t expecting him to be around long.

“The important thing is that we recognize that we had the person right there,” Siena athletic director John D’Argenio said. “Last year, when Carm was brought on staff, that’s what was exciting about it, is I thought three or four years from now, we would be here. But, obviously, it was a little bit quicker.

“He was a go-to guy, whether it was three years, four years … or nine months later.”

Much of what happens next season will hinge on whether star freshman guard Jalen Pickett comes back, and it’s already been a mixed bag on incoming freshmen sticking with their commitments to Siena, or not, but the bulk of the roster appears to be on board with the new head coach who is not new to them.

That bodes well for the stability and continuity that are so important at this moment of flux.

And Siena would’ve been hard-pressed to find a more popular choice for the fans, who naturally feel betrayed by Christian, but have have sent many “thumbs-up emojis” to D’Argenio.

The Shenendehowa and Siena grad Maciariello certainly knows the terrain, even if this is his first stint as a college head coach after years as a journeyman assistant.

“I was always watching from afar,” he said. “Every time we take recruits here, we drive by Maurice’s right there, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, this is the best roast beef in the country.’ Every time I come back here recruiting, I get two sandwiches, one for the road and one for right now.”

“You have a greater responsibility [as head coach], but my biggest thing with these guys is I’m the same coach. I’m not going to demand anything from them that’s different from when I was an assistant. They still have to be on time, they still have to be early, they still have to do their schoolwork, they still have to be great in the community, they still have to treat everyone with respect, because that’s what Siena basketball players do.”

Because Maciariello has such deep roots to the area, it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll be more likely to stick around for awhile, even if the program gets back to and sustains the MAAC championship form it hasn’t enjoyed since McCaffery’s last season, in 2010.

For his part, D’Argenio gets credit for hitting the Christian hire well over the wall. But the reality is that, at a school like Siena, good coaches don’t last long, especially young ones who succeed to the level the school and fans expect.

“Yeeahh … you’d like to think so, but who knows,” D’Argenio said with a rueful grin, of the likelihood that Maciariello won’t leave early. “Because he’s going to have great success. And when guys have great success, as we’ve proven before, they can go on to big things. But certainly, being from the area, having graduated from here, maybe you get the hometown discount.”

There was a certain cut-and-paste aspect to the Siena press releases from last May and this week, in introducing new head coaches. It’s a recycled script.

Likewise, Siena used the word “architect” for the Christian announcement last year, and so did George Washington last week.

The good news in Loudonville, meanwhile, is that the Saints, for once, don’t have to go back to the drawing board.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

Categories: College Sports, Schenectady County, Sports, Your Niskayuna

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