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Bona grad Baron to coach Canisius men; Introduction set for Koessler today

Canisius College will make official what has been buzzing around the local college world for weeks - Jim Baron will be the next Golden Griffins men's basketball coach.

Baron will be formally introduced at a news conference this afternoon at the Koessler Athletic Center. Canisius announced the hire on its website Monday afternoon.

"I am extremely pleased to introduce Jim Baron as our men's basketball coach," Canisius Athletic Director Bill Maher said in the official news release issued. "In naming Jim to this position, we have hired a man who has a proven track record of building successful basketball programs and developing young men. He is excited to return to Western New York to lead the Canisius College basketball program."

Baron certainly knows Western New York basketball. A native of Brooklyn, he is a graduate of St. Bonaventure, where he was a starting guard on the Bonnies 1977 NIT championship team. He returned to coach his alma mater for nine years (1992-2001) making one of his two career NCAA Tournament appearances with the Bonnies.

For the last 11 years he coached at Rhode Island, leading the Rams to five NIT appearances and a 184-165 overall record. He was fired by the Rams after a 7-24 season.

In his first head coaching gig, Baron took St. Francis (Pa.) to the NCAA Tournament in 1991 with a 24-8 record and a 13-3 mark in the Northeast Conference.

While the St. Bonaventure--Canisius rivalry is deep-seated, Baron's reputation for rehabilitating small schools could be exactly what the Griffs need.

"Jim comes to us as a highly respected coach, having led three different institutions to postseason success," Maher said in the release. "Our goal is to win the MAAC Championship and I look forward to working with Jim to accomplish this goal at Canisius."

A MAAC Championship in men's basketball last came Canisius' way in 1996. That came on the heels of a run to the NIT Final Four in 1995. Since then, there have plenty of lean years in the win column for the Griffs.

Baron, 58, takes over for Tom Parrotta who was fired last month after a 5-25 season.

The Griffs went 15-15 overall and 9-9 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in the 2010-11 season. And that was their best showing in nearly a decade. You have to go back to the 2000-01 season for the Griffs to have an overall winning record. They went 20-11 that year and 9-9 in the MAAC under Mike MacDonald (another St. Bonaventure grad for the record). The last time they had a winning mark in the MAAC was 1998-99 (11-7 and 15-12 overall).

"This is a great day for Canisius College basketball," school president John J. Hurley said in a release. "Jim Baron has demonstrated throughout his career that it is possible to match success on the court with success in the classroom. He has been a positive influence in the lives of hundreds of young men, and I'm tremendously excited about the prospect of working with Jim to restore Golden Griffin basketball to glory."

The Griffs will return all five starters and 11 letterwinners along with three incoming transfers who sat out a season due to NCAA transfer rules.