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Baron, Canisius Off To Great Start

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


This just in: Jim Baron can flat out coach!

After 11 seasons at the University of Rhode Island, Baron was fired by the school for one reason and one reason only: his inability to get the program to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

But shed no tears for Baron for he has not only landed on his feet in western New York, he has hit the ground running.

Jim Baron

Following Monday night’s 82-54 thrashing, Baron’s Canisius Golden Griffins men’s basketball team is now off to an impressive (7-2) start to the season. Included in those seven victories is a win over his alma mater St. Bonaventure. The team’s only two losses are to 3rd-ranked Syracuse (10-0) and a (7-2) Stony Brook team. It’s the best start for the program in almost 40 years.

It should come as no surprise to Rams fans what Baron is doing in Buffalo. He pretty much did the same thing here in Rhode Island.

Last season, Canisius went (5-25) overall and (1-17) in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. In addition to their 7 wins, the Golden Griffins are also off to a (2-0) start in MAAC play.

At Rhode Island, Baron also took over a 5-win program in 2001. In only his second season at the helm he led the Rams to a 20-win season which ended in a second round loss to Temple in the NIT.

What has helped Baron get off to a fast start at Canisius is the fact that his son, Billy, transferred to the school and was eligible to play for him right away.

Heading into last night’s game, Billy Baron was averaging a team-leading 17.4 points per game. He was also averaging 5 rebounds and just under 6 assists per game. But there’s a good chance that Jim Baron would be winning at Canisius even without his son.

Billy Baron

If you were around Baron’s teams at URI, you knew how well-prepared they were at the start of every season.

Baron works his kids hard which was why they traditionally came out of the gates strong each year. Some say that same intensity that he employed to prepare his team at the start of each year may have also contributed to some of his clubs slow finishes to the season, an indication that maybe they had worn down.

While that last point is certainly debatable, the fact that Baron can flat out coach is not.

If you recall Baron’s early years in Kingston, his teams played a slower tempo half-court game but were fundamentally sound. That style was an indication that Baron knew his club lacked talent and depth. Therefore, he would try to shorten games to fewer possessions. His hope was to hang around against the better teams where they would try to steal one in the end.

Years later, after recruiting some talent into the program at URI, Baron upped the tempo significantly giving new meaning to the phrase “Runnin’ Rams!”

There were more than a few seasons that Baron’s Rams looked like they might be primed for a run at the NCAA’s but it never happened.

The most frustrating campaign may have been the 2007-2008 season where URI went (14-1) to start the season. That great non-conference showing included wins at Syracuse, South Florida, Alabama-Birmingham and a home win over Providence. But, a (7-9) showing in the Atlantic Ten kept Rhody out of the Big Dance eliminating the euphoria of that fast start.

Still, in his 11 seasons at the University of Rhode Island, Jim Baron won 184 games and was named Atlantic Ten Coach of the Year three times (2003, 2007, 2009). His teams won 20 games on six different occasions and made it to the postseason six times as well. In 2010, the Rams made it all the way to the NITs Final Four at Madison Square Garden.

But this isn’t the 1950’s and the NIT wasn’t good enough. And Baron knew that. For as good a job as he did at URI, he understands the business he is in. He understands that coaches like him are hired to be fired. They are paid handsome amounts of money to deliver their program to the NCAA Tournament. If they don’t, like sand through the hourglass, their time runs out.

But Jim Baron has a brand new hourglass at Canisius and it is full of sand on top. Often a bottom feeder in the MAAC, his teams will undoubtedly compete at the top of that conference on a regular basis while he is there.

The amazing part it, that it is happening much sooner than some expected.

I wish him well. 


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