Siena’s Maciariello: Saints ‘need to get better’ after early exit from MAAC men’s basketball tournament

Siena men's basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello is shown during Wednesday's MAAC tournament game in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Anthony Sorbellini/MAAC Sports)
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Siena men's basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello is shown during Wednesday's MAAC tournament game in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Anthony Sorbellini/MAAC Sports)

Exit interviews with players and staff members will take place next week, and Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello said his program will take a disciplined and thorough approach to examining why its 2020-21 season is already complete as its offseason gets started.

“And I’m the CEO,” Maciariello said Thursday. “It falls on me, everything that happens within the program, so I’ve got to go through it all.”

Siena’s season closed Wednesday in excruciating fashion, as the top-seeded Saints lost in the MAAC tournament quarterfinals to Iona. The defeat dropped Siena to 0-11 all-time against the Gaels in the MAAC tournament, and Wednesday’s loss might have been the most painful of all those meetings, as the Saints were up nine with less than nine minutes to go before a 16-0 Iona run derailed their season.

Maciariello said he “loved the fire, and grit and toughness” his team played with in Wednesday’s game, but the contest also served to expose further the deficiencies that were known to exist despite the Saints winning a share of the MAAC regular-season crown.

There were execution issues on offense, and lapses in attention to detail on defense. The “depleted” roster, which began the season with 10 scholarship players, became a significant problem for the Saints as health-related issues mounted throughout the campaign. And, the lack of an ability to extend leads and close out games was a season-long struggle that never was able to be corrected.

Siena started the season 6-0, then managed a 6-5 mark the rest of the way. Maciariello said his approach to the offseason is with that 6-5 more in mind than the 6-0, and he breaks down even further the 6-5 part of the Saints’ season to their 0-2 finish.

Besides the crushing loss to Iona that saw the Saints not score for more than eight minutes down the stretch, that 0-2 span includes the regular-season-ending, one-point loss to Canisius. That game saw the visitors score the final eight points at UHY Center when Siena had the chance to wrap up an outright regular-season championship on its home floor.

Both contests demonstrated the issues that plagued the Saints. They relaxed against Canisius, while their game-play problems were at the forefront down the stretch against Iona.

The personnel issues that Siena had, too, were on display in those games. While Siena’s roster included back-to-back MAAC Player of the Year winners in Manny Camper and Jalen Pickett, and a pair of double-digit scorers in Jordan King and Jackson Stormo, the Saints lacked consistent production from elsewhere on their roster — especially after guard Nick Hopkins was injured and missed the last six games of the season.

COVID-19 always loomed over the 2020-21 season, and played a significant role in hurting the Saints’ depth since practice time was limited to develop freshmen Aidan Carpenter and Colin Golson. But Siena’s depth on the wings was always going to be an issue during the just-completed season after Gary Harris (transfer) and Dana Tate (dismissed) were lost during the team’s extended preseason, and Maciariello said Thursday that the program needs to add more perimeter talent moving forward.

“We need a big, wing scorer,” Maciariello said. “We need someone who can [dribble it] and score at all three levels. . . . We need someone who can break their man down and get a shot.”

That’s the case, Maciariello said, whether Camper — a senior — uses the extra year of playing eligibility afforded to him at Siena or if he departs from the program. Maciariello said he’ll address next week with Camper what the future holds for the 6-foot-7 star who declared last year for the NBA draft before returning to Loudonville.

Hopkins will be back for the extra season he’s allowed, while the team’s only other senior scholarship player is Harrison Curry who Maciariello said will not be back for the 2021-22 season.

Maciariello is halfway through his four-year contract at Siena, and said he doesn’t “worry about that stuff” when asked about a possible extension. An attempt to reach Siena athletic director John D’Argenio was unsuccessful Thursday, but it seems safe to project that Siena adding a year or two onto the contract for Maciariello — a Siena alumnus who has won regular-season championships in both seasons at the helm — would qualify as the least-surprising news that the Siena men’s basketball program could produce this offseason.

Siena has two signed letters of intent from perimeter players in incoming freshmen Jared Billups and Javian McCollum, and 6-foot-10 Kyle Arrington — who sat out the 2020-21 season, and is still working back from a knee surgery — is expected to gain a scholarship for next season.

In all likelihood, though, there will be roster turnover for the Saints before next season starts up. The NCAA tournament doesn’t start until next week, but the transfer tracker at verbalcommits.com already included more than 350 players. Maciariello said the Saints will be “very selective” if they opt to pursue any transfers.

If Camper returns — and that is difficult to categorize as anything other than unlikely to occur — Siena will be a clear-cut favorite next season in the MAAC. Without Camper, though, Siena remains one of the league’s favorites as long as King, Pickett and Stormo all return.

Regardless of who stays or goes, though, Maciariello said the Saints won’t be “complacent” this offseason after another season ended with the program short of its goal to reach the NCAA tournament.

“At the end of the day,” Maciariello said, “we need to get better.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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