Jim Baron, head coach at the Division I level for the past 25 seasons, was formally introduced as the 23rd head coach in Canisius College men's basketball history on Tuesday at a press conference held in the Koessler Athletic Center. This is Baron's fourth head coaching stop, having also spent time at St. Francis (Pa.), St. Bonaventure, and most recently at Rhode Island.
"I am pleased to say the candidate that we chose for this position is outstanding and I think that speaks very highly for our institution, our program and our city," Canisius Director of Athletics Bill Maher said. "In selecting Jim Baron we found that as a head coach, he meets all these very important criteria. This coach has a proven track record in rebuilding three different programs - a four-time Atlantic 10 Head Coach of the Year and the winner of almost 400 career games over his 25-year coaching career, a coach with 11 postseason appearances and eight 20-win seasons, someone familiar with Western New York and the environment of a small private catholic institution and a coach who has a history in success in developing young men academically and athletically."
Baron returns to Western New York after spending the previous 11 years at the University of Rhode Island where he won 184 games and made six postseason appearances (all 20-win seasons). 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.
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.
Having gone to school at St. Bonaventure and having spent time as the Bonnies' coach, Baron is very familiar with the Western New York area and the strong tradition of former players and coaches that have made up the Canisius basketball program.
It's a good feeling in being back in Western New York," Baron said. "I want to be a steward of this program, (Bob) MacKinnon, (John) Beilein, Nick Macarchuk, as well as great players that came through here - and one sitting right there with Tony Masiello. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with the great high school coaches that are in the area that are recruited for players - Mel Palano, Art Serotte and the coach at Niagara Falls at the time, Pat Monti, a lot of these guys have been retired.
"I think that the MAAC is a solid conference with great balance. It has excellent programs with terrific coaches. I'm looking forward to working with young men in the program and I'm also looking forward to getting some wings from the Anchor Bar and eating at Chefs. But I did get a chance to meet with the young individuals and the funny thing about it is when I come to the programs those young men become our young men and I feel that that is true for coaches."
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 Billy, who is currently enrolled at Rhode Island and is a rising junior on the men's basketball team.Canisius returns all five starters and 11 letterwinners to go along with three incoming transfers who will be eligible for the 2012-13 season.