Marilyn Coutant’s passion for Siena College basketball is almost all-consuming.
She proudly wears the green No. 33 Saints’ uniform of Rob Poole, one of the three “adopted” Siena players she follows intently.
From her perch in Section 121, Row E, seat 7 for every home game at the Times Union Center, the 72-year-old graduate of the now defunct St. Columba’s and Albany Business College roots, roots, roots for the home team.
“I’ve been going to Siena games since 1988,” said Coutant. “When I started out, I sat in the rowdies section with my son. I would clap along, and would throw newspapers and toilet paper, just like the rest of them.”
The Schenectady native started her tradition that season, when the Saints reached the NCAA tournament and stunned third-seeded Stanford in Greensboro, N.C., ehind 32 points from all-time leading scorer Marc Brown.
“That first year, I just picked out four boys, one was a freshman, one was a sophomore, one was a junior and one was a senior. I started a tradition, where I had four boys to follow at all times.”
Coutant began cutting out newspaper articles for each one of her favorite players and kept them in a folder, to be delivered to each one at the end of the season.
“But then I thought that it wasn’t very Christian just to do that for only those four boys, so I started cutting out newspaper articles for the whole team. My next door neighbor [Gabe] helps me out by making copies of all the stories. I used to go out and buy a bunch of papers all by myself, but it got to be a pain. Now, I get two copies of each of the papers, and my friend makes the copies. Each boy gets a copy of the game they played in, and we both put them into envelopes.”
Coutant lost her senior Saint when that player left school last year, but she still has a solid trio of Poole, freshman Marquis Wright and sophomore Ryan Oliver.
Over the years, some of Coutant’s crew included Kenny Hasbrouck, Ronald Moore, Justin Miller, Mike Beer, Brent Snyzek, Dwayne Archbold, Prosper Kar-angwa, Tay Fisher, Mike Buhrman, Ryan Rossiter and Tommy Mitchell, just to name a few.
“I make it a point to meet all of their parents and guardians,” she said. “Last year, I went to where all the parents sit and introduced myself, even if I didn’t have one of their sons on my list. I would write their names, addresses and telephone numbers on a pad. I try to help them be as comfortable as possible. It’s not hard to notice me, because I’m always the one who wears a T-shirt with a Siena number on it.”
Coutant, who spent 20 years as the bookkeeper for Schenectady OBGYN, also attends nearly 90 percent of the away games. Even though she travels with three men, including her son, Siena graduate Craig Coutant, and they split the cost, travelling to some of the games can get expensive.
“Our crew has been going to road games together for 15 years, and we usually just split one hotel room,” she said. “To help pay for the trip, I sell baked goods, cookies, candy and popcorn.”
The tradition of selling candy, popcorn and other foods to help defray expenses started long ago, when Coutant first got involved with her favorite sport.
“I started it all when I was in high school. We had a very small grad-uating class in 1959 with 13 boys and 26 girls. Leo McDermott was in my class at St. Columba’s and was the star player,” she recalled.
“Later, I got involved with helping some boys who were in the CYO basketball program. They were going to a Yankee game at the end of the season, and the coach was handing out permission slips. Sadly, a handful of the boys didn’t take the slip, because they knew they couldn’t afford to go. I introduced myself to the coach and asked if I could sell some refreshments to raise funds for the game. He agreed. I borrowed money from my parents for candy, and I made popcorn, putting them into little bags. I sold the popcorn for five cents a bag, and I bought cases of soda.”
Through Coutant’s efforts, the entire bus of children was able to attend the game, and she gave each an envelope with a small amount of spending money for the game.
She continued that same trad-ition when her son attended Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. She sold hot dogs with meat sauce, along with hot chocolate, potato chips and candy.
“The money I raised back then went to the Bishop Gibbons sports club,” she said. “I was later inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame for my volunteer work.”
Coutant and her husband, David, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, but it won’t be on the exact day of their wedding.
“Our wedding anniversary is on Feb. 1, but I told him we have to celebrate either before that date or after, because Siena is playing that night,” she said. “So we moved the celebration to March 15 at Petta’s.”
Although her blind husband doesn’t attend games, he also follows the Saints by listening on the radio.
“My husband loves to listen on the radio. He likes the General, Robert Lee,” she said with a laugh.
“I really love following the Siena games. We’re all like one big happy family.”