LOUDONVILLE — With his first week behind him as the school’s men’s basketball head coach, Jamion Christian said Wednesday he has no regrets about his decision to jump from his alma mater to Siena College.
“I love it here. Every day I’ve been here, the more people I meet, the more passionate people I meet about Siena basketball and Siena College, the more I’m 100 percent sure this was the right decision,” said Christian, who coached the last six seasons at Mount St. Mary’s. “That gets verified every day.”
Christian is still very much in the beginning stages of his new job.
He is still updating his wardrobe from Mount St. Mary’s gear to Siena attire.
He just learned Wednesday that the school’s Marcelle Athletic Complex has a conference room, to which he quickly took a liking.
And, he is still looking for a full-time residence, too, a decision that likely won’t be made until after he takes his honeymoon next week with his wife, Allie. The couple married Saturday, three days after he was introduced as the Saints’ new coach.
“But, right now, it’s all about trying to get the right guys on our roster,” Christian said of his focus at Siena. “I’ll sleep in the office if I need to.”
Christian said he expects to have a full coaching staff in place before the end of next week. In assistant coaches, Christian said he is looking for people who are the “right fit for the moment,” and said candidates with prior Siena experience — playing or coaching — wouldn’t have an advantage in his process of filling out his staff. It does seem likely Christian will bring at least one or two of his Mount St. Mary’s assistants to Siena.
“Right now,” Christian said, “I need someone who has some experience with me.”
Roster-wise, Christian has at least a few open scholarships for next season; freshman Jordan Horn is transferring to North Dakota State, freshman Prince Oduro is sorting through transfer options and junior Nico Clareth re-confirmed last week his departure from the program.
Meanwhile, Christian said he wants to see freshman Roman Penn — who has received his release — in a Siena uniform next season. Penn, who missed the end of the season with a foot injury, was the Saints’ best all-around player during his rookie season.
“I love Roman Penn. I think Roman Penn is a championship-level player. I think he’s a guy you can build your program around,” Christian said. “I think he’s a really important piece, so we’re really working to make sure he understands that. ... We’re really working hard on making him feel the love.”
Called up @TexasMBB head coach Shaka Smart about new @SienaSaints head coach @JamionChristian.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) May 2, 2018
And Smart gushed ... and gushed ... and gushed about his former assistant and the newest @MAACSports coach.
Via @dgazette: https://t.co/jFkNVq7j1X pic.twitter.com/nTsFAUr8z7
While he allowed that more players could exit the program as May continues, Christian said he is “confident” the rest of Siena’s players left over from predecessor Jimmy Patsos’ 2017-18 roster will remain Saints. Christian said his expectation is that group includes redshirt juniors Kevin Degnan and Kadeem Smithen, both players who had been expected to leave the program before Patsos’ resignation.
“The opportunity to have some upperclassmen, guys who have had some different experiences, and are fired up about being here and fired up about a change in leadership, I think that’s important,” Christian said of Degnan and Smithen. “I like those guys and I believe in those guys.”
Christian said he has been in touch with Siena’s returning players each day since his hire. He gave them an “appreciation project” earlier this week, in which he wanted each player to contact five people they hadn’t communicated with recently to tell them they appreciated the impact those people had made on their lives.
“We’ll continue to do that kind of stuff throughout the year,” Christian said.
Christian expects to have his @SienaMBB coaching staff in place by the middle of next week.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) May 9, 2018
Also, said he’s open to leaving a scholarship or two open: “We’d never take a kid to take a kid. This is Siena. We can get elite players here. ... We’ve got to bring in All-MAAC players.”
Since taking the job to rebuild the Saints after an 8-24 season, Christian said he had found it encouraging how much support he has felt both within — and outside — the Capital Region. That enthusiasm, he said, has helped fuel him during his first days leading the school’s men’s basketball program.
“People love Siena. They have a feeling about it — an emotion about it — that’s so deep,” Christian said. “They didn’t just go to school here. They grew up here, they lived here, they had a fulfilled life here. They want to do whatever they can to move [the school] forward.”
Christian said his expectation is for the Saints to compete at a higher level right away. That goal, he said, is the only goal that makes sense. He suggested viewing the 2018-19 season as one of transition wouldn’t be fair to the players coming back for Siena.
“They deserve for our coaching staff to work tirelessly and around the clock to make sure they have a great experience this year with great players,” Christian said.
He added: “We’ll be in a good place.”