Throughout his 29-year head coaching career, Jim Baron has consistently built programs from the ground up.
Baron’s foundation to success includes many factors in developing student-athletes both on and off the court; tireless work toward improving as a basketball player; academic diligence; and physical, mental and emotional growth. Baron believes those three principals will ultimately lead to success over the student-athletes’ career at the college level. Those fundamental principles are now on display at Canisius, where Baron is entering his third year as the Golden Griffins' head coach.
A winner of 448 career games that includes 10 20-win seasons, two NCAA Tournament berths and 14 postseason appearances, Baron was named the 23rd head coach in Canisius College men's basketball history on April 2, 2012. A four-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year (1995 at St. Bonaventure, 2003, 2007 and 2009 at Rhode Island), he returned to Western New York after spending 11 years at the University of Rhode Island. In his first year at the helm of the Canisius program, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native helped revive a Golden Griffin basketball program that has struggled over the previous decade. Baron’s Griffs went 20-14 in 2012-13, the program’s seventh 20-win season and the first since 2000-01, and the Blue and Gold posted an 11-7 mark in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. Baron’s first team at Canisius also earned a berth in the 2013 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) and advanced to the quarterfinal round. That postseason appearance was the program’s first since 1996.
The building process continued in 2013-14, as Baron helped guide the Griffs to a 21-13 overall record and a 14-6 mark in MAAC play. The 21 wins allowed Baron to become the first coach in program history to win 20-games in his first two seasons at the helm of the program, and the Blue and Gold's 14 league victories set a new program record. Canisius advanced to the MAAC Championship semifinal round for the first time since 2002 last March with a quarterfinal round win over Siena, and the team closed out the year with its second-straight appearance in the CIT, marking the first time Canisius earned a postseason berth in back-to-back years since the mid 1990s.
With the second-youngest roster in the MAAC, Baron's experience and basketball knowledge was further proven in 2014-15, as the Griffs, who were picked to finish 10th in the MAAC's annual preseason coaches poll, posted an 18-15 overall record and an 11-9 mark in league play, which earned the team a first-round bye in the MAAC Championship for the third-straight year. The 18-15 overall record marks the team's third-straight winning season (a first for the program since 1994-95 through 1996-97) and the team also earned an invite to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament for the third-consecutive year. The 2014-15 edition of the Griffs won 10 games at home, posted eight victories on the road and ended the season in the CIT quarterfinals, the second time in three seasons where the Blue and Gold made a trip to the event's quarterfinal round.
Under Baron, Canisius posted a plus-15 win differential from 2011-12 to 2012-13, which ranked third in all of Division I basketball. He is the first Canisius coach in school history to earn 20 wins in his first year at the helm. After setting new program records for 3-point field goals made (313) and 3-point field goals attempted (811) during the 2012-13 season, Baron's Griffs came back in 2013-14 and set a new program record for most points scored in a single-season with 2,661. In 2012-13, the Griffs earned wins over local rivals Buffalo, Niagara and St. Bonaventure in the same season for the first time since 2000-01, and the Blue and Gold also went on the road and defeated nationally-recognized Temple on Dec. 19, 2012, the team’s first win over the Owls in five all-time meetings. For his efforts in 2012-13, he was named a finalist for the 2012-13 Hugh Durham Award, presented annually to the nation’s top mid-major head coach.
Since taking over the Canisius program, Baron's teams have won a total of 59 games in three seasons, the second-most victories for a MAAC school in that time and the team's best win total over a three-year span since 1993-96. Baron also had the privalage to coach his youngest son Billy during his first two seasons at Canisius. The youngest Baron finished his senior year in 2013-14 ranked fourth natioanlly in scoring average with 24.1 points per game en route to be named the MAAC Player of the Year. He was also named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American, the program's first All-American since 1985.
Rebuilding programs is nothing for Baron, who has never had a losing overall record at any of his four Division I coaching stops through his career. Prior to taking over the Canisius job, Baron served as the head coach at the University of Rhode Island where he won 184 games in 11 years, made six postseason appearances (all 20-win seasons) and enjoyed a four-week appearance in the national rankings during the 2007-08 season. He improved the Rams' win total in six-straight seasons, from six wins in 2004-05 to 26 victories in 2009-10, and he helped guide the Rhode Island program to the 2010 NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden, the team's first appearance in the NIT semifinal round since 1946.
Baron left the Atlantic 10 Conference as just the second man in the league’s history to win Coach of the Year accolades four or more times. Only former Temple head coach and Basketball Hall of Famer John Cheney has received the award more, as he was honored as the A-10 Coach of the Year on five occasions. Baron’s coaching career has also resulted in high accolades for his players as well. After the 2013-14 season, Baron has coached a total of 48 all-conference selections, including a MAAC Player of the Year (Billy Baron), one NEC Player of the Year (Mike Iuzzolino at St. Francis (Pa.) and one Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year (Delroy James at Rhode Island). Additionally, all but two seniors that have played for Baron in 27 years have gone on to earn their undergraduate degrees for their institutions.
A 1977 graduate of St. Bonaventure University and 2009 inductee into the St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame, Baron spent nine seasons as head coach at his alma mater (1992-2001). Prior to his return to Olean, N.Y., the Bonnies had won 22 combined games during the previous three seasons. In his third year at the helm, he guided the team to an 18-13 record and a trip to the 1995 NIT. In his final two seasons, Baron led the Bonnies to a 39-22 mark, including the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 22 years, where St. Bonaventure fell to heavily favored Kentucky by a score of 85-80 in double overtime in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
Baron's first head coaching experience came at St. Francis University (Pa.) in Loretto, Pa., where he led the Red Flash to the 1991 NCAA Tournament. That year, the team posted a 24-8 overall record and a 13-3 mark in the Northeast Conference, which resulted in the program's only NEC Tournament title and appearance in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.
Before becoming a head coach, Baron was an assistant coach at four institutions - the University of Notre Dame (1981-87), St. Bonaventure (1980-81), Loyola University (Md.) (1979-80) and the University of Rochester (1978-79). He got his start in coaching at Aquinas High School in Rochester, N.Y. During his four years as a student-athlete at St. Bonaventure, the Bonnies were 72-38 and as a senior, Baron served as a co-captain when the Bonnies went 24-6 and won the 1977 NIT Championship.
Baron and his wife Cindy have two sons, Jimmy - a former standout guard for Rhode Island who graduated from the school in 2009 and currently plays professionally in Spain - and Billy, who played for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Summer League before signing to play overseas in Lithuania. Active in numerous charitable organizations, such as American Cancer Society Coaches vs. Cancer program and Camp Good Days and Special Times, he is a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) International Coaches Group. He was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in June 2013.