LOUDONVILLE — For nearly two decades, the Siena women’s basketball program has struggled to produce winning basketball teams.
Now, a new head coach will be challenged to change that.
Siena announced Monday, five days after its women’s basketball program’s 2020-21 season ended with a loss in the MAAC tournament quarterfinals, that it had dismissed Ali Jaques as the program’s head coach. Jaques coached the just-completed season while in the final year of her contract, and last Wednesday’s loss to Marist wrapped up a nine-season tenure for Jaques that ended with three consecutive losing seasons.
“Now,” D’Argenio said Monday during a teleconference with reporters, “was the time to make a change.”
Siena’s most-recent season, an abbreviated one played around stops and pauses related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, ended with the Saints at 4-9. D’Argenio, though, said the “impact of this year was very minimal on the decision” for the school to seek a new coach.
“We had a large body of work coming into the year to look at and to evaluate,” D’Argenio said.
Short of, at the very least, a run to the MAAC championship game, it seemed highly unlikely Jaques would continue past this season as the Saints’ head coach. Siena finished at 116-148 during her tenure, and the Saints only had two winning seasons and never made it past the MAAC semifinals with Jaques coaching them.
After last week’s season-ending defeat, Jaques had said “there’s things you can control in life and there’s things you can’t, and that’s something that I don’t have control over right now,” in regards to her status at the college.
“I hope that the administration makes the best decision for the best of the program moving forward,” Jaques said last Wednesday. “If that’s me, I’ll be grateful. If it’s not, I’ll walk away knowing I gave it everything I had.”
WNYT Sports Director Rodger Wyland first reported news Monday of Jaques’ dismissal. A New Jersey native, Jaques played her college basketball at New York University. Prior to heading to Siena, Jaques worked as an assistant coach at Dayton, Furman, Northwestern, Rider and Sacred Heart.
D’Argenio said Siena doesn’t “plan” to use a search firm in its pursuit of a new head coach, and while there is not a “specific timeline” in place, Siena’s long-time athletic director said he’d like to have a new coach hired within a month.
“I think it’s going to be somebody that can lead the young women with empathy, somebody that can come in and understand coaching in 2021,” D’Argenio said. “As everyone knows, it’s a lot different than it was in even 2010. . . . And, somebody who has proven to be successful and won some games, whether that’s as a high-level assistant, whether that’s as a head coach — and, then, of course, somebody that has the values that we have at Siena College as a Franciscan institution.”
Prior to Jaques, Gina Castelli ended her 22-season stay at Siena with eight consecutive losing seasons. The next coach of Siena will inherit a program with two winning seasons in its last 17.
“We struggled, quite frankly, to compete with the top half of the league,” D’Argenio said. “I think that’s where it starts — and that’s where it ends.”