When Siena offered him its head coaching job in 2010 after Fran McCaffery left for Iowa, longtime assistant Mitch Buonaguro was ecstatic at the chance to be in charge of a Division I program again for the first time in 19 years.
He didn't have long to settle into his dream job, however, before the challenges of sustaining McCaffery's success became clear.
A post on a Siena fan site read, "Welcome to the Hot Seat, Mitch" the day his team lost to city rival Albany to fall to 2-5 in his first season. Boos rained down on the Saints late in their next game, a blowout home loss to conference foe Fairfield. By the time Siena staggered to a 13-18 record in Buonaguro's inaugural year on the bench, a few fans were already begging the school to, "Ditch Mitch."
Criticism of Buonaguro rightly dissipated after last year's massively shorthanded Siena team overachieved by winning 14 games in a rebuilding year, but the third-year coach still faces pressure to keep making progress.
McCaffery's final three teams each won at least a share of the MAAC title and made the NCAA tournament. At the very least, Buonaguro wants Siena to reemerge as a contender next season.
"Hopefully, this year we start the climb back to the top of the MAAC," Buonaguro said. "When I got the job, what I always felt was the administration would give me time to build it. We never want to say we're rebuilding, but with some of the losses to graduation and some of the injuries we had, we were. Now we have a full team and we're ready to go. This year I expect to be in the hunt,"Read More »from MAAC Preview: Mitch Buonaguro enters crucial year hopeful Siena can climb back into contention