Throughout his 26-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 second year as head coach, starting in 2013-14.
A winner of 409 career games that includes nine 20-win seasons, two NCAA Tournament berths and 12 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, the most league wins for Canisius since 1998-99. 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.
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 of the program and the team set new program records for total points scored (2,499), 3-point field goals made (313) and 3-point field goals attempted (811). 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. A finalist for the 2012-13 Hugh Durham Award, presented annually to the nation’s top mid-major head coach, Baron saw two of his players earn All-MAAC honors, with his youngest son Billy, a team captain, earning the 2013 CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major MVP award as well.
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 2012-13 season, Baron has coached a total of 46 all-conference selections, including 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 26 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 Italy - and Billy, who is currently a senior captain at Canisius. 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.