By Cameron Hurst '20
Athletics Communications Intern
It was fitting that Jim Satalin had a front row seat to the St. Bonaventure Bonnies 60-57 overtime victory over the Syracuse Orange in December.
"That night was just special," said Satalin, the former St. Bonaventure men's basketball coach who led the Bonnies to a NIT Championship during the 1976-77 season and a NCAA tournament berth the following season.
Until that night, Satalin remained the last St. Bonaventure basketball coach to have beaten the Bonnies intrastate rival -- a 74-71 decision on Jan. 27, 1981, at the Reilly Center.
"I was so proud of them," said Satalin, who now serves as the color commentator for Syracuse men's basketball broadcasts. "Everything about that night; the great crowd of Bonaventure fans there, the alumni at the Carrier Dome. When they won that game, I had a great sense of pride in what this program has been through all the years. It's made me feel pretty good to be a part of that in some little way."
This season, which has featured a 13-game winning streak, back-to-back 40-point performances by Jaylen Adams and sold-out crowds at the Reilly Center, has held a special place for the former Bonnies head coach.
"I'm watching the Bonnies score on my phone every second of the game while I'm doing a Syracuse game," he said. "First and foremost on my mind is what's going on down the road in Olean."
With an opportunity against UCLA looming Tuesday night in Dayton --- an opportunity that nearly occurred against legendary head coach John Wooden and Sidney Wicks in the 1970 NCAA Championship --- Satalin is confident in this St. Bonaventure team's ability to make their mark on history with the lights of March shining the brightest.
"They are capable of beating almost anybody," he said. "I've always felt this way and it's not rocket science. If you have good guards, you can compete with anybody. (Mobley and Adams) have been through the wars here --- you're going to really have to be able to guard them to shut them down. I do believe they can win and do some damage in the NCAA Tournament."
Jim Baron, who played under Satalin and was team captain during that NIT Championship run, coached his alma mater from 1992 to 2001, leading the Bonnies to the NCAA Tournament against Tubby Smith and Kentucky in 2000. Baron, who retired from coaching in 2016, is familiar with how much work has gone into St. Bonaventure's success over the last few seasons.
"The kids, the team, it's all coming together," said Baron. "I've watched their development over the last few years and this is what it is all about. This is where kids grow up, they become juniors and seniors, and they develop and improve."
Like Satalin and Baron, Larry Weise has also been keeping his eye on the Bonnies from the comfort of his winter home in North Port, Fla.
The program's all-time wins leader and the coach of arguably the greatest team in school history that he and star center Bob Lanier took to the Final Four, Weise expressed the pride this team has given him in the program he dedicated so many years to help build.
"I'm very impressed with the team," said Weise. "I like the way these players play; I like their offense. They're unselfish. They're going to do some damage."
The three former coaches also extended a great deal of praise toward current Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt and the work he has done to make St. Bonaventure a consistent competitor in the Atlantic 10 since arriving in 2007.
In Satalin's eyes, he's "the best coach St. Bonaventure has ever had."
"What he's done with this program is remarkable," he said.
"Mark and his staff have done an admirable job developing these young men, not only on the court but in the classroom and in life," added Baron.
Said Weise, "Mark does a really good job. They play really tough defense. They're solid on their fundamentals. They're good on their foul shots. They can hang in there on their rebounding. He's one of the better coaches in basketball today."
Weise also noted how much he can appreciate Schmidt's recruiting techniques.
"(Schmidt's) said that he can't get 'the five-star kid,'" said Weise. "I never could either, but you could get kids that maybe people overlooked that you think are good. I like the way he recruits because he gets the kind of kids that do well at St. Bonaventure. Our history has been made on kids who weren't highly recruited by other people and they've done well. He does that. That's why he's winning and that's why he's so successful.
Weise would know -- especially considering he took a little-known Lanier and helped him develop into the first overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft and eventually a professional career that ended with his membership in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Similarly, St. Bonaventure senior Jaylen Adams wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school and initially had committed to Jacksonville before a coaching shakeup led to his decision to become a Bonnie.
Four years, three appearances on the All-Conference First Team and a share of the Conference Player of the Year Award later, Adams has taken his place among the greatest guards to ever wear the Brown and White, impressing the entire nation, and especially his program's former coaches.
Satalin, in fact, compared him to perhaps the first member of Bonaventure's Mount Rushmore --- All-American, Tom Stith.
"Tom Stith looked like he wasn't playing hard all the time because it was so easy for him," said Satalin. "He kind of floated in and floated out and it didn't look like he was working hard and you look up at the scoreboard and he has 28 points and 16 rebounds.
"I think that's the same with Jay," he added. "He's going to down as one of the greatest players the Bonnies have ever had."
Jim Baron has seen great guards during his time, considering he played with Glenn Hagan, who is still regarded as the best guard to ever play at St. Bonaventure. And, during his coaching career, he had the opportunity to coach J.R. Bremer, Marques Green, Tim Winn, David Vanterpool and Shandue McNeill.
Baron believes that Adams' name is certainly worthy of that company.
"He has a terrific handle and he's got a great demeanor about himself," said Baron, stressing the importance of fellow senior Matt Mobley to the team's success this season.
Weise, Satalin, and Baron each have played and coached some of the program's most memorable teams. All three agreed that the 2017-18 Bonnies will certainly have a place on that list.
"I think they'll be right up there with the best that we've had in the past," said Weise. "They're strong and they are seven, eight deep, too. That's a strength. You need a good bench and they've got one."
And, from Baron's point of view, he has been captivated by how the community has reacted to this team's success.
"That's the Bona spirit," he said. "Having the community, having the alumni, having the Franciscans are all a big part of this. It takes a whole school and a community and alumni to make this all go. I'm really happy and really proud to be an alum."
Added Satalin on the Bonaventure tradition: "People kept coming up and asking me who I was rooting for (that night in the Carrier Dome) and I had the same response: 'I went to school there, I played there, I coached there, I met my wife there, three of my kids were born there. Who do you think I'm rooting for? Of course I'm rooting for St. Bonaventure.'"
"I'll root for Syracuse in every other game they play and I'll be an ardent fan and supporter of theirs," he said. "But not that night. That was Bonaventure's night. Everybody understood that."
As for Weise, who sat back and reflected on nearly a half-century's success that he helped to continue from Eddie Donovan, he marveled at how bright the future is for the Bonnies.
"The place is alive, that's for sure," he said. "They have a lot of spirit. I'm excited and I'm really happy for everybody there."