When I sat down at press row back on November 17th, I knew the game between Canisius and St. Bonaventure was sold out. I knew it was a big game. I knew the energy was going to be through the roof.
All of those proved to be true but I continued to ask myself, where are all the students?
The Bonnes had their fair share of students make the hour and a half trip from Olean but somehow Canisius students couldn’t make the five minute trip from their dorm room?
The Griffs were able to defeat the Bonnies 72-69.
Sure, there were some Canisius students that made their way to the game. Their spot behind the basket was sparce though as if it wasn’t for the band and the drum set that sat right in the middle, it would have looked like another section of fans. The Bonaventure students took up two sections behind press row in the corner as every student stood the entire game shoulder to shoulder, with very little breathing room.
Yes I know the Bonnies won the A-10 last year and nearly upset Florida State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the Griffs meerly won five games. The two programs coming in were on two completly different levels.
It’s still no excuse. It’s a rivalry game, and new head coach Jim Baron proved that it was more than just that before and after the contest.
“Yesterday I was in the dining hall, in the library, at Subways, at Tim Horton, you name it I was there giving out free tickets for students to come to the game,” Baron said after the game.
Name me another coach who in his second game at a school would be all around the campus and city giving away tickets to the students. Baron didn’t have to, but he wanted to. And that’s the culture Baron wants to create at Canisius. He told me at the “Big 4″ media day before the season started that he wanted the Koessler Center sold out every night to try and create one of the best home court advantages in not only the MAAC but the entire country.
Not only Canisius students, but members of the Western New York area need to take notice of what is happening with a basketball, fourteen student-athletes, and a determined head coach on Main Street.
Baron coached in the Atlantic-10 conference for over 20 years and also played college basketball at Saint Bonaventure. He knows how special it was to come out with a win against the Bonnies.
He had made his goal apparent during his short time at Canisius. Baron wants to win and get people excited about Canisius basketball again. The excitement from the fans is coming back and the excitement from the alumni is coming back too. The excitement from the student body is what has to be fixed next.
After his first game and win as the Canisius head man against Boston University, Baron started his press conference thanking the fans and the student body. Only problem was, the student body went almost unwitnessed.
“First I want to just thank the student body for coming, and the fans, it’s going to be a total process of getting them out,” said Baron. He was even on the PA system after the win expressing his gratitude for everyone who attended the game.
What Jim Baron is doing at Canisius goes way beyond basketball. I said that to a Canisius student and they asked, “what does that even mean?” I’ll tell you all what it means.
This Canisius team won five games last season. They couldn’t get out of their own way. By the end of the year, they looked tired, exhausted, and just sick of losing. Less than a year later, the same players, along with a few new additions, have already surpassed their win total from last year in less than a quarter of the games. They have already beaten “Big 4″ rivals Buffalo along with Saint Bonaventure and are 3-1 on the road. They are 2-0 in the MAAC for the first time since 1997-1998.
What these kids are doing is not only special, it was totally unpredictable.
Jim Baron’s son Billy Baron has brought that same mentaility as his father as the former Virgina and Rhode Island guard is averging 17.7 points per game along with 6.0 assists. He was recently named MAAC player of the week.
Everyone likes the underdog, and it’s an easy story to root for. In the beggining of the year, Canisius was the underdog but now they are becoming the favorite. Jim Baron is the main reason for that as his mentality that he has instilled in his players has shown on the floor. They currently sit at 6-1 (2-0) and have won their past three games. Their next test will be the toughest all season. A date with the fourth ranked Syracuse Orange inside the Carrier Dome will be an experience unlike anything else they will experience this season. Orange head coach Jim Boeheim will be going for his 899th career win in front of over 20,000 fans.
Through all that, the Griffs players and coaches still have the menatality of another game. They don’t want to get blown out. They don’t want to keep it close. They want to win. It may be a far cry, but the fact that no one will write the off completly shows how far the program has come in such a short time.
The Griffs will return home from nearly a month away from the Koessler Center to host Longwood Monday night. Coach Baron and his players deserve to have the gym sold out and a student section as jam-packed as it can get. No matter if you’re love basketball or you hate it, showing your support for a team who represent the 20,000 plus students that attend the institution, is the least the student body can do.
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