Frustrated Loyola coach takes a seat in the stands
BALTIMORE (AP)—It’s not often a college basketball coach passes control of his team to an assistant in the middle of a game, then climbs into the stands to watch the action.
Jimmy Patsos did both Tuesday night.
His Loyola (Md.) team lost to Cornell 82-72 in Boston during the NIT Season Tip-off, and the fifth-year coach insists his actions were warranted.
The trouble began when Patsos was slapped with a technical foul midway through the first half. According to Patsos, instead of calling the technical on the bench, referee John Gaffney told those at the scoring table, “That’s a Grade A technical foul on Jimmy Patsos.”
Patsos said Gaffney then warned him that he would be thrown out of the arena if he said another word.
“It was a very strange situation,” Patsos said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I really hadn’t done anything in the first place to warrant the technical, and there was no warning. But instead of arguing, I just moved to the other side of the bench and had (assistant) Matt Kovarick call the plays.”
Patsos used the time to talk individually to players on his young team. All went well until late in the second half, when Patsos contends Gaffney initiated a switch with another referee to position himself in front of the Loyola bench.
Gaffney then “yelled at me and my assistants,” Patsos said.
Patsos had no idea how to react.
“I didn’t want to get tossed out. I had my hands up in the surrender position,” he said.
Patsos said video of the scene shows Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan in the stands, placing his hands on his head in astonishment. Seconds later, Patsos climbed about two rows into the seats to sit behind Boylan and ask for some advice.
“I didn’t want to hurt the school or the program, but at that point I really didn’t know what to do,” Patsos said.
“I just told him to calm down,” Boylan said Wednesday. “As far as I’m concerned, he handled the situation well. He made sure there was no way he would be thrown out of the game.”
Patsos returned to the bench and stayed calm until the final buzzer.
When Patsos arrived at Loyola five years ago, he inherited a 1-27 team and ultimately turned around the program. Known for his fiery sideline demeanor, Patsos used to sweat through his suit and tie by halftime.
He contends he’s now a changed man who doesn’t drink, wears a peace sign on his wrist and has far more patience with his players—and officials.
“I’ve lost weight, feel better and am happy to turn the other cheek,” he said.
Boylan said he would take no disciplinary action against Patsos, and lauded his work at the small Jesuit school.
“He’s done a remarkable job in a very, very difficult situation,” Boylan said. “His passion is the conduit.”