LOUDONVILLE — Jamion Christian coaches the game.
Ryan Devlin figures out who to put in the game.
That’s largely the arrangement for the Siena College men’s basketball team, and it is one Christian — the team’s head coach — used at Mount St. Mary’s, too, before heading to Siena. During the game, Christian’s focus is leading the Saints from a strategic standpoint, so Devlin — an assistant coach — is left to make sure the team’s substitution pattern and rotation is executed.
“I have to navigate the waters and know what [Christian] would want,” Devlin said. “I’ve got to have a good feel and be on the same page as him with it. But, yeah, during the game, I’m the one calling them in and out.”
Several times this season, Saints have initially headed to the scorer’s table to check into the game, only to be called back to the bench. Those instances represent the few times Christian has opted against the decision-making of Devlin, and those moments are generally caused by Christian — in strategizing mode — trying to leave a player on the court for a specific offensive or defensive purpose for an extra possession or two.
“I’ve got overruling ability all the time,” Christian said with a smile.
Before games, the Siena coaching staff — which also includes Graham Bousley, Harley Fuller, Carmen Maciariello and A.J. Register — works together to figure out a general idea of the rotation and how many minutes each player should play. One of Devlin’s in-game roles is to make sure that vision is carried out.
Christian is a stickler for organization — and Devlin serves as the extension for that when it comes to managing the team’s bench. After the starters head onto the floor at the start of each game, Devlin lets Siena’s main bench players — at the moment: redshirt freshman Jimmy Ratliff, juniors Sammy Friday and Thomas Huerter, and redshirt senior Kadeem Smithen — know when they will first check into the game. Then, those players are responsible for remembering to head to the scorer’s table at their set times.
That type of organization continues throughout the game. For example, when Friday checks in for Siena senior Evan Fisher, Devlin quickly finds the latter to let him know when he’s headed back into the game.
“What that does is for the guys coming off the bench, they have a distinct time they know they’re going into the game. A lot of times, I’ve been on teams and you’ll look on the bench at Player A, B or C and tell them to be ready to go into the game, but when? With this way, I can look at them and tell them when they’re going in,” Devlin said. “With that being set in place, it prepares our kids. It gets their minds ready.”
“Most places,” Christian said, “the coach just yells your name out when something goes on, and the guy might not be ready.”
Jamion Christian said he thinks his team is close to being “elite” after its loss tonight. pic.twitter.com/asxWRZE353— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 22, 2018
Huerter said knowing on the bench when you are next headed into the game helps “remove anxiousness” for players sitting out, while Fisher said it helps players stay mentally engaged at the right moments.
“Because there are a lot of things going through your mind as the game goes on,” Fisher said. “So to not worry about when you’re going in or coming out, that’s one more advantage for us.”
After games, the Siena coaching staff evaluates how certain lineups worked and if any players carried too heavy of a workload. Through Siena’s 2-3 start, the Saints are starting to develop a meaningful sample of game data — and two points of emphasis as the team moves along are finding ways to get more shooters onto the floor at the same time and reducing freshman Jalen Pickett’s minutes.
“Right now, he’s just a guy that it’s really hard to take him off the floor,” Christian said of Pickett, who has team-high averages in minutes played (35.8), points (14.2) and assists (5.4).