By Nick Veronica
Canisius men’s basketball coach Jim Baron will announce his retirement in a press conference Friday afternoon, according to team sources.
Baron, 62, has been at the helm at Canisius for the last four years. His retirement was first reported by Shawn Stepner of WKBW-TV (Ch. 7).
Baron just signed a three-year extension in March before the MAAC Tournament. Team sources said his decision to retire was not health-related.
Rather, the sources said, Baron had a change of heart after a recent trip to Europe, where his sons Jimmy and Billy play professionally on the same Belgian team. Baron decided that after nearly 40 years in coaching (28 as a head coach), he wants to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren. Jimmy and his wife had twins last summer.
Canisius athletic director Bill Maher called the decision “very surprising” in a phone interview. He said Baron informed him he was going to retire on Thursday, about three months before classes begin for the fall semester.
Associate head coach Pat Clarke will act as the interim head coach, sources said and Maher confirmed. Clarke, an Olean native, has been on Baron’s staff since 1999.
Maher said his department’s next step is determining whether a coaching search is a viable option at this point in the year or whether the program is better off with Clarke and the current assistants remaining in charge for 2016-17, adding he’d want to take time to find “the right coach,” not just any coach.
Maher said Baron is free from contractual and financial obligations to the school. He hopes to hold recruits who have signed national letters of intent to their commitments.
Baron’s 892 games coached rank 40th in NCAA history. Known for turning around rebuilding programs, Baron’s final record stands at 462-430, putting him 80th all-time in wins and fourth all-time in losses, which speaks more to longevity than to bad coaching.
Canisius will hold a press conference this afternoon, tentatively set for 1:30 p.m.
This story will be updated as new information comes in.