LOUDONVILLE — Across the country, it’s normally the head coach that serves as the defining person for a college basketball program.
Carmen Maciariello wants that to be different during his time leading the Siena College men’s basketball program. He’d rather the focus is on the Don Careys, Jalen Picketts and Sloan Seymours producing on the court than on the people in suits on the sideline.
While Maciariello will set the agenda for the program he now leads, the head coach has said — and repeated, again and again — that the focus needs to be on the players for the Saints as the program moves forward.
“This program is not about me,” Maciariello said during his introductory press conference last month. “Siena is a players’ program. It has always been a players’ program.”
That phrase — “players’ program” — is one that Siena athletic director John D’Argenio has used, too, and seems to represent the driving ethos for the Saints as they move forward after a season spent embracing “Mayhem” under the leadership of former head coach Jamion Christian.
While Maciariello has said that he doesn’t “need to token a term” to describe his style, the idea that Siena is a “players’ program” has seemingly been referenced more in the last couple weeks than it was combined in prior years. D’Argenio and Maciariello each said there wasn’t any type of formal conversation between the two to re-brand Siena in that way, but the phrase’s usage has become common and both agree on what it’s meant to convey about how the Saints want to move forward after a calendar year in which Siena had three head coaches.
“I wanted to reinforce to them that just because someone left, that doesn’t diminish their success or mean we’re not going to continue to be successful,” D’Argenio said of his message to players. “They’re the ones that lead that charge for us. . . . That doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want, but it means their talent and skills is what makes the program rise.”
“And I’ve always just remembered very good players being at Siena,” said Maciariello, a Clifton Park native who graduated from Siena in 2001. “They’ve always had good coaches, but it’s always been about the players and them being able to play confidently. They played through mistakes and grew as basketball players, and the better they became individually, the better they became as a group.”
That’s how Maciariello wants to craft together his program, too.
“It’s all about the players,” said Maciariello, who worked as an assistant coach for more than a decade before becoming Siena’s 18th head coach. “It’s not going to be about me trying to put a square peg into a circular hole.”
While Siena has three open scholarships for next season, the core of next season’s Saints is already built. Maciariello wants that group to play faster than it did last season when it walked the ball up the court every possession, but he mostly wants to utilize his returning players in the same manner that Christian did during the 2018-19 season.
That means the ball will stay in Pickett’s hands a lot — and, realistically, even more during crunch time than it was last season.
“Jalen has to be more dominant late in games,” Maciariello said.
It means that Seymour, a 6-foot-9 forward who made more than four times as many 3-pointers as he grabbed rebounds, will continue to fire away from downtown.
“I’m not concerned with Sloan’s rebounding,” said Maciariello, who added he’d like to find more ways to use Seymour offensively than just as a catch-and-shoot option. “He’s such a weapon.”
And that Manny Camper will continue in his largely positionless role for the Saints.
“I love Manny’s versatility,” Maciariello said. “I love having him on the floor because he plays hard every single second he’s on the floor.”
Even before considering how the program’s open scholarships could be used or the way incoming freshmen Lucas Sutherland and Kyle Young could factor into the Saints’ rotation, the team gains two significant players in Elijah Burns and Carey after that pair sat out for Siena during the 2018-19 season because of NCAA transfer rules. Maciariello sees Carey as someone capable of serving as the second playmaker Siena never developed last season, while the 6-foot-8 Burns is someone the coach sees gobbling up minutes in the team’s frontcourt.
“We want him doing that,” Maciariello said of Burns playing multiple positions. “We want other teams having to figure out how to guard him.”
Encouraging such versatility and playmaking, Maciariello said, is at the heart of how he wants to guide the Saints.
“At the end of the day,” Maciariello said, “being a players’ program is about being about them, and having them enjoy what we’re doing and letting them buy into it that way.”