Is Siena an opponent that new UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings would like to see on his team’s 2021-22 schedule?
“I’d love to,” Killings said Monday in a phone interview. “My immediate instinct is that people in the Capital Region want that game.”
But . . .
“We just have to make it make sense,” Killings said. “It’s got to make sense for everybody involved, but I think it’s really important that we get the chance to play each other, not necessarily for me or [Siena coach] Carm [Maciariello], but for our kids. I think our kids really want that opportunity. That’s what college basketball is about.”
UAlbany and Siena haven’t played in men’s basketball since 2017, and it’s the “make sense for everybody involved” part that’s largely kept the Albany Cup game off the schedules of the Capital Region’s two Division I men’s basketball programs.
The disagreement, in its simplest terms, for anyone who has forgotten: Siena wants the game played each year at its home Times Union Center in downtown Albany with the attendance capacity available to host 10,000-plus fans, while UAlbany wants a series between the programs to include a rotation that involves games at its home SEFCU Arena, which has a capacity of approximately 4,500.
As Division I programs, UAlbany and Siena played every year from 2001-2017. Of those games, only the 2016 matchup was played at SEFCU Arena.
Siena athletic director John D’Argenio did not respond Monday to a request for comment, while UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said Monday that the two ADs have “ongoing dialogue, but haven’t talked about [the Albany Cup] in a while.”
Benson said UAlbany’s position regarding the men’s basketball Albany Cup hasn’t changed in recent years. Back in 2018, when the schools issued a joint statement announcing they wouldn’t play that year, Benson said that UAlbany is seeking a “more equitable” arrangement, and that “you can define equity in many ways, but if you look at the really good college rivalries around the country . . . each team’s home court is part of that series.”
Killings and Maciariello spoke last week after the former was hired at UAlbany. In a phone interview Monday with The Daily Gazette, Maciariello said that “having our fans all able to enjoy the game, not just a select few” is a priority in getting the rivalry restarted, echoing Siena’s position from several years ago.
“But I think it just comes down to the schools discussing what’s best,” Maciariello said Monday of a potential UAlbany vs. Siena matchup.
No fans were allowed at any UAlbany or Siena games during the 2020-21 season because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
While this school year’s athletic schedules have not included many non-conference games for UAlbany and Siena because of issues related to the pandemic, the schools do frequently compete against each other in sports other than men’s basketball. After they took a one-year break in 2018, the UAlbany and Siena women’s basketball teams did play in 2019 and planned to play in 2020 until pandemic-related scheduling disruptions removed the game from the schedules of both clubs.
Still in his first week as UAlbany men’s basketball head coach, Killings said he’d like his first season with the team to include a game with the Saints.
“We need to give that to the Capital Region because it’s important for everybody; the alums, the [common] basketball fans — that’s what they want to see, so we should give it to them,” Killings said. “I think we have to figure out how to make it work and make sense for both schools.”
KELLY ENTERS PORTAL
CJ Kelly, the leading scorer last season for the Great Danes, has reportedly entered into the NCAA transfer portal.
Kelly’s move, first reported by verbalcommits.com, makes the 6-foot-5 wing player the seventh scholarship Great Dane to enter into the portal since Will Brown was dismissed as the program’s head coach on March 1. Kelly averaged 14.3 points per game last season for the 7-9 Great Danes.
Kelly, whose father was teammates with Brown at Division II Dowling College, transferred to UAlbany ahead of the 2020-21 school year from Pratt Community College.
Several Great Danes in the transfer portal said they’re still considering returnning to UAlbany — and Killings said he wants to give each of his inherited players at least another week or two until he seeks out what they’re thinking regarding staying with or leaving the program.
“I don’t think it’s fair to them [for me] to just drop in on campus, and then ask: Are you with us or are you not?” Killings said. “They need to see what the mentality is that I’m trying to bring to the program.”
UAlbany officially announced Monday the hiring of two assistant coaches.
Those coaches are Hamlet Tibbs and Matthew Griffin, both of whom Killings said last week would be featured on his coaching staff.
Tibbs, an Albany native and Troy High School graduate, has spent the last seven seasons at America East Conference rival Vermont.
Griffin has spent the last five years at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. His father is John Griffin, who coached Siena from 1982-86.