Pair of former Cardinals set for NCAA tourney coaching debuts
WASHINGTON – A pair of former Cardinals will make their NCAA Tournament head coaching debuts this week when John Becker '90 and Jimmy Patsos '89 lead the University of Vermont and Loyola University Maryland, respectively, into the Big Dance. Becker's Catamounts play on Wednesday evening, while Patsos and the Greyhounds get started on Thursday.
In his first season as Vermont's head coach, Becker and the Catamounts punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a 51-43 win over Stony Brook in the America East Conference championship on March 10.
The win was Vermont's 14th in its last 15 games and sends the Catamounts into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in school history.
"It's a surreal feeling right now," Becker told uvmathletics.com following the win over Stony Brook. "We were talking earlier today about our first meeting back in July and how we talked about getting to this point. And today it was here and we were able to beat a very good Stony Brook team."
He continued, "It was just a great team effort, something that we have been doing all year. We made timely shots and our guys hung in there and made enough plays to win. I couldn't be more proud of our guys. We are going to the tournament."
Becker was named Vermont's head coach on May 20, 2011. He had been in Burlington for the previous four seasons, working under former Catamounts head coach Mike Lonergan, now the head coach at George Washington University. Lonergan had previously served as CUA's head coach from 1992-2004.
Prior to arriving at Vermont, Becker was the top assistant at CUA for two seasons, helping guide the Cardinals to a 41-17 record and an appearance in the Division III NCAA Tournament in 2006.
Becker graduated from CUA in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in history.
The No. 16 seed Catamounts will face fellow 16 seed Lamar University on Wednesday evening in Dayton, Ohio in one of four First Four matchups. The game tips off at 6:40 p.m. and will be televised across the country on truTV.
Should Vermont win, it will advance to face No. 1 seed North Carolina on Friday in Greensboro, N.C. at 4:10 p.m. That game will be shown live nationwide on TBS.
Loyola was awarded the No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament's East Region and will face No. 2 seed Ohio State on Thursday at 9:40 p.m. in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised nationwide on TNT.
Patsos led the Greyhounds to a record of 24-8 this season, including a 13-5 mark within the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference). The 24 wins are the second-most in school history, matching the total of the 1947-48 team.
Loyola defeated Niagara, Siena and Fairfield in the MAAC tournament to earn its first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1994. Patsos, who was hired by Loyola eight years ago, took a program that was 1-27 in 2003-04 and turned it into a champion.
"This is the culmination of the work of many people," Patsos explained to loyolagreyhounds.com following the win over Fairfield. "It was the players this year, but it was many others who came before us who made this happen."
He added, "This is a great event for Loyola as a school, and we are happy to share it with our fans who have been a great support to us this season. We are very excited to represent Loyola, the MAAC, Baltimore and the State of Maryland in the NCAA Tournament."
The 2012 MAAC Coach of the Year, Patsos was a three-year letterwinner at CUA, where he played for the late Jack Bruen. Patsos helped lead the Cardinals to a record of 51-25 during his career as a player, and captured four in-season tournament championships.
One of Patsos' assistants at Loyola (Md.) is Luke D'Alessio, a 1983 graduate of Catholic University. A two-time All-Conference selection while at CUA, D'Alessio scored 936 points for the Cardinals as a player, and later served as an assistant coach under Bruen and Bob Valvano.