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UAlbany-Siena rivalry turning into feud

UAlbany-Siena rivalry turning into feud

The Albany Cup will be played a week from Sunday between two good teams — and two hot coaches.
UAlbany-Siena rivalry turning into feud
Siena men's basketball coach Jimmy Patsos, left, and UAlbany head coach Will Brown, right, during a 2015 news conference to announce new details regarding the Albany Cup rivalry games.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

The Albany Cup will be played a week from Sunday between two good teams — and two hot coaches.

As in angry.

Siena’s Jimmy Patsos and University at Albany’s Will Brown are publicly going after each other for perceived slights leading up to annual Saints-Great Danes basketball game, which will be played for the first time at UA’s SEFCU Arena on the 15th anniversary of the first Albany Cup game.

Just in time for the Festivus season: Let the airing of grievances begin.

And it always begins in the same place — where this game is played. Even if it’s being played in a new place.

The Albany Cup game has called the downtown arena now called Times Union Center home since its inception since 2001. This season, Year Two of a three-year deal, marks the first time the game will be played in the smaller UAlbany campus arena. We are talking the difference between roughly 15,000 downtown, and 4,500 and change uptown.

But during an appearance on a WTMM (104.5 FM) radio show last week, Patsos told Zach Bye (who is also a color commentator for the Great Danes) that this SEFCU game could be a first-and-last for the Saints.

“This is the last time we’re going there,” said Patsos, according to the Times Union. “But everybody knows we’re going there once and that’s it and then we’re going to figure out how to play that game downtown where it belongs. But I’m doing that as a peace treaty.”

Patsos said Thursday he was merely referring to playing there once as part of the current deal.

After Wednesday night’s win over Division III Oneonta, a clearly perturbed Brown took on Patsos.

“One of the objectives I’ve been pushing and pushing and pushing is home-and-home, home-and-home,” Brown said. “Show me one other series in the country, a true series, where one team just continues to go to the other team’s building and plays. Tell me why. Our fans, our community, our people deserve this game.”

Brown was also rankled about Patsos’ comments regarding the Danes playing a DIII school — MAAC teams can’t schedule down like that — noting UAlbany’s non-conference schedule, with Penn State, Cincinnati and SMU, compares favorably to Siena.

“He’s gotta lighten up,” Patsos countered Thursday.

Reached Thursday morning, Patsos was not in an apologetic mood. Words like “baby” and “ungrateful” were used. Patsos made clear that Siena did UAlbany a solid by agreeing to this game when UAlbany was in its Division I infancy, and that by agreeing to come to SEFCU — again, the first Siena coach to sign off on that — he is not getting credit for this basketball detente.

“I’m waiting for my thank you note,” Patsos said.

These are two fiery men. Both can get riled.

And both have points here — to a degree.

Brown has always had the moral high ground in stating the series should rotate — if not a true home-and-home, then close to it. (Home, home and a neutral site game at Times Union Center — which would still be advantage Siena — is about as near as you can get.) If you are fixating on the different sizes of the venues, consider this:

The Dean Smith Dome holds 21,750.

Cameron Indoor Stadium holds 9,314.

Does anyone think North Carolina should never travel the 10 or so miles to Duke because fans could be shut out?

But Patsos also has a point: He (and athletic director John D’Argenio) stuck his neck out like no other Siena coach before by signing off on this game on the UAlbany campus.

There is a significant contingent of Siena fans who are dead-set against playing the game anywhere but Times Union Center, and he is going where no predecessor has gone. Trust me: The game to be played on Nov. 27 never would happen at SEFCU if Fran McCaffery was still coaching the Saints.

So basketball fans, regardless of fandom, should thank Siena for signing off on this game.

And no, it should not be the last one played at SEFCU.

“Don’t play with fire,” Patsos said Thursday. “At the end of three years, let’s talk about it.”

Oh, people are going to be talking about this game already. As Brown said, “there it not a tougher ticket in this area right now.”

A rivalry game for two good teams.

An intense feud for two good coaches.

And a veritable Festivus for the rest of us.

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