BALTIMORE --- Jimmy Patsos observed much of his Loyola team's latest encounter with Metro Atlantic power Siena on Friday with his arms crossed and a glare suggesting more than any coach's usual level of dissatisfaction.
The Greyhounds absorbed a 76-59 defeat, tumbling back to .500 overall after struggling to decipher the Saints' zone defense. Toss in 24 points yielded off 14 turnovers, and it left an irate Patsos to offer up a loop of the same words while trying to contain himself in the depths of Reitz Arena.
"You're not going to win in college basketball without passion and energy," Patsos repeatedly barked into a digital recorder.
Patsos kept much of his trademark sarcasm in check, returning to "passion and energy" as the evening's culprit 14 times in a 3 minute, 43 second session with reporters (and 11 times in the first 66 seconds).
It was a concern in large part because it wasn't a concern for the Maryland assistant in recent weeks. Loyola (10-10, 6-4) had won six of seven since New Year's. It swept MAAC bottom-feeders Manhattan and Marist, collecting three wins by double figures. It snagged victories over Fairfield and Saint Peter's after losing to both conference contenders in December.
It got by without Jamal Barney, who didn't dress for the fourth straight game Friday, and injured junior Anthony Winbush. Throughout the month, Loyola played the part of a conference contender after two years of struggles.
Patsos can be overly demonstrative (though a perusal of Loyola's box scores shows no technical fouls to his name this season), but he's not dumb. He has a new athletic director. He suffered through two losing seasons with an inexperienced team. He's faced some bumps in the last few months. It's not the most enviable of situations.
In the face of it all, he and his team have thrived. The Greyhounds' recent work, while not always artful, possessed substance on a nightly basis. They grinded out victories, style points be damned.
The hint of any step backward, particularly with Iona arriving in Baltimore less than 40 hours later, was not going to sit well with Patsos. One so choppy and sloppy was especially difficult to handle.
"I preached that from day one when I built this program from a 1-27 program with five people in the stands. ...," Patsos said. "I came here and there was no passion and energy and no fans in the building and all I've done is put my whole life into this program for seven years. So when they don't play, I'm a little upset."
It manifested itself in more than a few lousy perimeter attempts, but that was bound to happen against a zone. There was to be no penetration (the Greyhounds' guards combined for three free throw attempts on the night), and the perimeter shooting fell only in brief spurts.
A greater annoyance to Patsos was inattention to the shot clock, which expired multiple times to the apparent surprise of his players.
"The shot clock thing is crazy," Patsos said. "The whole world's saying 'Shoot the ball' and we can't shoot the ball. That to me is a little odd. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. I've got a player looking at me like 'What did you want me to do?' Shoot it?!"
The evening's bigger picture was simple to comprehend. Sweep a weekend set from Siena, the league's three-time defending champ, and Iona, and the Greyhounds were assured a tie for second. The threat of getting swept means Loyola could sink into a tie for fifth once Sunday is finished. Big difference.
It was an out-of-nowhere outing in Loyola's recent context, but one Patsos has no interest in permitting to fester.
"I'm concerned about that right now, because we've been playing very hard," Patsos said. "We have had a great January. I'm proud of our team. I love our team. I like what's going on. They try. See, I coach 18-to-22-year-olds. They dribble my paycheck up and down the court. My advice to young people is not to get in college coaching because it's very inconsistent. Ask Tom Izzo and Bob Huggins and Jim Boeheim. What happens is when you don't play with passion and energy, you can't really overcome ..."
He trailed off before changing directions entirely, much like the abrupt turn his team took earlier in the evening --- one Patsos will try to counteract with his own passion and energy before the weekend is through.