LOUDONVILLE — In a sport increasingly with little of it to go around, stability was a prominent feature during Carmen Maciariello’s first two seasons leading Siena men’s basketball, as was winning games.
One, of course, had a lot to do with the other.
So, naturally, after an offseason that saw the team’s roster and coaching staff need to be remade, many expect the Saints to take a step back next season after winning more MAAC games in the last three seasons than any other team in the conference.
And, as his program started its summer workouts Tuesday on campus, Maciariello forcefully pushed back on that notion.
Sure, the cast around Maciariello looks so much different than it did just months ago.
But he likes the look of it.
“These are a bunch of guys like me,” Maciariello said of his team, “with a chip on their shoulder.”
On the first day of Siena’s eight weeks of summer workouts, Maciariello promised the new-look Saints are reloaded, not rebuilding — and that the winning culture developed in recent years hasn’t gone anywhere.
Anthony Gaines — one of those guys with a chip on his shoulder, for sure — agreed with that sentiment.
A transfer from Northwestern, Gaines is expected to be one of Siena’s top players — and leaders — after averaging 5.1 points per game during four seasons playing for the Big Ten Conference program. Like Elijah Burns, who transferred to Siena from Notre Dame a few years ago, Gaines gets the chance to show he can be a star in the MAAC.
Individual accolades, minutes and shots, though, weren’t on Gaines’ mind Tuesday — and, he said, the same went for his new teammates.
“Everybody’s came in with the same mindset,” said Gaines, a 6-foot-4 perimeter player from Kingston. “We want to win the league and we want to make it to the [NCAA] tournament, and that’s our approach.”
Siena won 32 of 47 games and at least a share of the MAAC regular-season championship in Maciariello’s first two seasons, but the Saints’ season ended shy of playing in the NCAA tournament both years. In 2020, the college basketball season’s close was abruptly canceled due to concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and that stoppage arrived with the Saints on a 10-game winning streak and needing two more to make the Big Dance.
Last season? That talented team started strong, then fizzled a bit down the stretch, a span that ended with its upset loss against Iona in the MAAC quarterfinals. From its 2020-21 season, Siena only returns 38.1% of its scoring and 35.5% of its rebounding, while four of the team’s starters from the Saints’ season-ending loss are no longer with the program. The team’s personnel losses include each of the program’s three all-conference performers from last season, with Jordan King (East Tennessee State) and Jalen Pickett (Penn State) transferring elsewhere, and Manny Camper — last season’s MAAC Player of the Year — pursuing a professional career.
Besides the team’s player personnel losses, Siena’s coaching staff — which experienced no changes during Maciariello’s first two seasons — has seen all three assistant coaches depart, including Antoni Wyche most recently. Maciariello confirmed Tuesday that Wyche, who starred at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons as a high school player before playing at Notre Dame, will return next season to his college alma mater as an assistant coach.
So the Saints will have a revamped coaching staff and roster for next season. Only one of the team’s double-digit scorers from last season is back, and that’s rising senior Jackson Stormo. He is one of only four returning scholarship Saints who have ever played a game for Siena, but — like Maciariello — Stormo liked what he saw, and felt, when the team was working out Tuesday on the court and in the weight room.
“I haven’t felt an energy like that in a while,” Stormo said.
“Just really excited,” said Maciariello, offering his review. “We just had our first workout today on the court and it was probably the best workout that I’ve had since I’ve been here as the head coach of this program — and that’s 50 minutes of monotonous drills, but the energy, enthusiasm, the appreciation these guys have for one another already is through the roof.”
While much attention has been paid to the players Siena lost this offseason, Maciariello said “the blessing of the transfer portal” is that the Saints have “got all guys that want to be here.”
And, they’re hungry to show why they came to Siena: to win.
“You’ve got three freshmen that are really hungry and all from great programs,” Maciariello said. “You’ve got high-level transfers that have done it at the highest level, or [are] hungry to do it at this level — to show they can do more.
“And, for me, that’s what it’s all about.”