I’m not going to sit here and say, “Congratulations Saints on your super season.” Everybody from Plattsburgh to Poughkeepsie has already done that. And done it and done it and done it. The truth is Clarence Jackson should’ve played on Friday and Siena should’ve beat Purdue. Without Jackson Siena starters had to play big minutes, Purdue was able to defend differently, and by 17:25 of the 2nd half the game was over. Despite that though, I thought Siena looked like a team content with what they’ve already accomplished. Content with two NCAA tourney wins. Content with three MAAC Championships. Content being the GREATEST Senior class in school history. Content.
So now the questions will begin: Does Head Coach Fran McCaffery stay at Siena or put his hot-commodity status to the test and try his hand at a big-boy school? Former coaches Mike Deane and Paul Hewitt both used Siena as a stepping stone successfully. Deane to Marquette and Hewitt to Georgia Tech. After Siena surrendered to Purdue on Friday my thoughts quickly turned to Fran’s future, and a line that ESPN sports reporter Colin Cowherd uses: Don’t try to be happier than happy. Might be good advice for Siena’s current coach.
For those who think Fran should cash in his hot ticket, here’s how I see it. Fran’s super senior class is graduating in May, so one would suspect there will be a period of rebuilding, even a brief one. And if you think Kyle Downey’s the answer, ah, think again. The program’s coming off three straight appearances in the Big Dance, netting two wins in that time. Last week, former standout Kenny Hasbrouck signed a ten-day deal with the Miami Heat, which means Fran’s first recruit is now in the NBA, if only for a short time. Perhaps the most exciting thing about being part of Siena basketball is the MAAC Tournament in Albany every March. The locals come out and treat the Saints like minor royalty, and Fran McCaffery’s the king of it all. A great basketball environment, no doubt. But guess what? The MAAC is no longer holding its tournament at the TU, and after Belber and the MAAC’s head man Rich Ensor butted heads in the press over the handling of security at the Championship game this year, I doubt the tournament is ever coming back to Pearl Street. So if Fran’s going to keep racking MAAC Championships, he’s going to do it in some rinky-dink gym in Bridgeport then Springfield, MA. All these reasons, combined with McCaffery’s age (50), would make one think it was the right time for Fran to jump ship and chase the big-name school, and of course, the big-name payday. After all, it may be now or never.
Don’t try to be happier than happy.
Those who know Fran and his family will quickly say the coach is quite happy with his Loudonville house and salary from Siena. McCaffery and his wife Margaret, a former Notre Dame women’s basketball player, have 2 young children. And she has made no secret of the fact that she doesn’t want to leave the Capital Region, so Fran can fight to take St. John’s or Seton Hall to the promise land. The truth is the McCafferys are treated like demigods in this area, recognized and revered wherever they go. If quality of life is a factor, it doesn’t get much better than that. If McCaffery takes a job in a large-market city, he’ll quickly be pushed to the backburner, because care level is low when there’re pro teams to contend with. If Fran were to go to NJ, he’d be lucky to valet Tom Coughlin’s car. Same thing in Atlanta, Philly, Cali, Chicago, etc. And although the demigod status would be long gone with the big-market job, the stress would be triple what it is here. Figure that out. Have you seen Paul Hewitt lately? He looks like Bill Cosby. Mike Deane or Rob Lanier? I haven’t seen either of them in years. How’s that for relevant? To be honest I think Fran could sign a lifetime deal with Siena and rack up MAAC wins and tourney tickets till the end of time. Big-market jobs? Three years to win. If not, so long and nice to know you.
Don’t try to be happier than happy.
My opinion: Stay, Fran, be happy, healthy, and revered wherever you go. But anyone would understand the competitive nature that compels a man to take the next step. Of course. The truth is he’s a great coach. In fact, I’ve never seen him outcoached by anyone, not even Pitino last year in the dance. So if a Louisville or Villanova opens up, McCaffery would have no choice but to test the waters. Of course. For now, I guess the Capital Region will keep their collective fingers crossed, and hope when next hoops season rolls around Fran’s still Siena’s front man.