The men's basketball program that was almost a record-setting loser is already undergoing an extreme makeover.
Everywhere one looks at Loyola College, the University of Maryland influence has infiltrated.
When the Greyhounds launch their new season under Jimmy Patsos in six months, they will be shaped in the Terrapins' image, playing a style the new coach learned as Gary Williams' longtime assistant at College Park.
"I think when we made the hire, we wanted somebody who could give the program a new face," said Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan. "Jimmy brings incredible energy and enthusiasm, and he's got all the expertise. We wanted somebody who really wanted the job. He just likes it. Gary and I have been friends for a long time, and I've watched Jimmy since he's been at Maryland. I always believed that as he matured he would be a good candidate for us."
Patsos, 37, was hired in April to replace Scott Hicks, who was released after a 16-97 record over four seasons, including a one-win 2003-04 season. The Greyhounds suffered a 31-game losing streak, two short of the NCAA Division I record, before beating Marist, 63-57, at Reitz Arena on Jan. 29.
"That game we won, we had a packed house," said guard Charlie Bell, one of the holdovers Patsos will employ to build his structure. "I think we can play better if we have more people in the stands like that."
Patsos said he is going to do everything he can to ensure the house will not be practically empty, as was the case during much of Hicks' tenure.
"We want to raise the level of excitement," he said. "Winning is the most important thing, but how you play is also important. We will play up-tempo and score a lot of points. We'll play pressure defense and create a lot. It's not my nature to walk the ball up and play a 2-3 zone."
His plans extend well beyond the X's and O's. Former Maryland stars such as Keith Booth, Juan Dixon and Laron Profit are playing in pickup games with the Loyola holdovers at Evergreen, giving them hands-on experience against better players. Dixon is holding a basketball camp for boys at Loyola beginning June 28.
The locker rooms are undergoing renovations. Patsos intends to acquire new warm-ups, new uniforms and new shoes for his players. His assistant coaches are Brian Blaney, son of New England coaching legend George Blaney, and Terrell Stokes, a three-year starter at point guard for Maryland.
In his indefatigable approach, Patsos also hopes to address one of Loyola's chronic problems in drawing fans - a lack of parking. The intention is to open Diane Geppi-Aikens Field to the vehicles of season-ticket holders, alumni and boosters.
As far as his team, Patsos wants to build with Bell, Bernard Allen, Shane James, Jim Chivers, Sean Corrigan and Irakli Nijaradze, players who have felt the sting of defeat all too often.
Three members of last season's team have departed, including Jamaal Dixon, who flashed promise as a freshman point guard; swingman Bobby Bossman, who missed much of the discouraging season with a broken foot; and Kenny Burr, who was redshirted.
"All the losing got frustrating for them," said Bell. "Jamaal was talented, but I think he got homesick [for the Boston area]."
"We invited them to stay," said Patsos. "But they don't want to be here."
Andre Collins, the point guard who transferred from Maryland to rejoin Patsos, is already making an imprint, although he won't be eligible to play for Loyola until 2005-06.
"He brings a lot of electricity," Bell said after another of those star-studded pickup games.
The recruits include Freddy Stanback, a small forward from Bishop O'Connell in Washington; Brad Farrell, a 6-foot-4 swingman from Herndon, Va.; Rashad Nixon, from a state champion Oxon Hill team; and George Boundis from Greece.
"We've brought in some guys who are used to winning," said Patsos. "But I'm counting on the older kids to lead at first."
Patsos wants to start home games at 7 p.m. to attract younger fans and avoid schedule conflicts with Terrapins games, which he recognizes as a magnetic draw in the state.
Speaking of Loyola's tough academic standards, often used as the reason for the inability to attract good recruits, Patsos said: "Stanford wins in the Pac-10, that school in Durham does OK, and how about Syracuse and Virginia and Princeton? I don't see why we can't get kids from, say, Calvert Hall. They fit the mold."
The Greyhounds will open with a Friday night scrimmage against Johns Hopkins to create some local interest and will play early road games at Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, financial windfalls that will help support the program initially.
"Jimmy understands that everything is not going to happen right away," said Boylan. "We know that we have to do a better job here to bring in fans, create an atmosphere that they want to be here and understand that parking is not as big a problem as it appears. But it's clear he's the best man for the job."
Reminded that Pat Kennedy remarked he wants to make Towson "Baltimore's team," Patsos quickly corrected his fellow coach.
"They're in Towson; we're in Baltimore," said Patsos.
"I see a big change coming," said Bell. "Everything is first-class at Maryland, and he's going to try to make us as close to that as he can.
"One thing's for sure. It definitely can't get worse."