Jim Baron, the Canisius men’s basketball coach for the past four seasons, announced his retirement on Friday.
Associate head coach Pat Clarke will assume the title of interim head coach, effective immediately. Canisius will begin an expedited search in an effort to have the position filled as soon as possible.
“I have given this decision a lot of thought and I just feel like it is time for me to step aside,” Baron said. “This profession demands a lot. I recently went overseas to see my boys play basketball professionally and there I realized, I have not been able to see them or my granddaughters much at all the last few years. I want to be a dad and I want to be a grandfather.
“I’ve been in the coaching business for 39 years. That’s a long time. A lot of people don’t work in the same field for nearly 40 years. When you’re coaching other people’s kids, you sometimes lose focus on your own family. I am lucky that I had the chance to coach both Jimmy and Billy at the Division I level. Now they are grown up and living their lives and starting families. I want to have the chance to enjoy that aspect of my life now. I want to thank Canisius President John Hurley and Director of Athletics Bill Maher for their support and their commitment to this basketball program. I spent so much of my life here in Buffalo and Western New York. This area will always have a special place in my heart.”
“I want to thank Jim Baron for everything he has done for Canisius College and for our men’s basketball program,” Maher said. “Jim came here four years ago and quickly changed the direction of our program for the better. He brought his unique passion to our program and elevated the excitement and performance of our team, as he has done at each stop of his career. Off the court, he has made sure that his players were true student-athletes, highlighted by the fact that every senior who has played under him here has graduated from the College, and four of his players have earned their master’s degrees from Canisius.
“Throughout our recent contract discussions, Jim expressed his trademark passion and desire to continue coaching and teaching young men. His decision to retire is a surprise, but Jim has given the game of basketball and the young men he coached his full-effort and Canisius is proud to be a chapter in a great career.”
A 29-year Division I head coaching veteran with 462 career wins to his credit, Baron was named the 23rd head coach in Canisius men’s basketball history on April 2, 2012. He led the Griffs to 73 total wins, 44 wins in MAAC regular season play and he guided the team to three-straight national postseason appearances. His 73 wins on Main Street ranks him seventh on the school’s career coaching wins list and he is the only coach in the program’s 112-year history to take his teams to the national postseason in his first three years at the helm of the program.
A 1977 graduate of St. Bonaventure, Baron started his coaching career as an assistant at Aquinas High School in Rochester, New York. He started his collegiate coaching career in 1978, when he joined the coaching staff at the University of Rochester, before making stops at Loyola Maryland (1979-80) and St. Bonaventure (1980-81). In 1981, the Brooklyn, New York, native joined Digger Phelps’ coaching staff at Notre Dame, where he was an assistant for six seasons.
In 1987, Baron took over as the head coach at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he posted a record of 74-71 and led the Red Flash to the school’s only NEC championship and NCAA Tournament berth, which came in 1991. Baron returned to his alma mater, St. Bonaventure, and served as the Bonnies’ head coach from 1992-01, and there he led the program to its first NCAA appearance in 39 years when the Bonnies played Kentucky in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament. He compiled 132 total wins in Olean and was named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1995.
In 2001, Baron made the move to be the head coach to Rhode Island, where he recorded 184 wins in 11 seasons, while leading the Rams to six postseason appearances. All six of those postseason berths were associated with 20-win campaigns. He also led Rhode Island to a four-week stint in the Associated Press Top-25 poll in 2007-08 and there he had the chance to coach his oldest son Jimmy, who graduated from URI as the A-10’s all-time leader in career 3-point field goal makes. He was named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year three times (2003, 2007 and 2009) while leading the Rhode Island program. Only former Temple head coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer John Cheney has more Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year awards to his credit than Baron.
At Canisius, Baron became the first coach in school history to record a winning record in MAAC play in three-straight seasons. In 2012-13, the Griffs went 20-14, the program’s first 20-win season since 2000-01, and the Blue and Gold advanced to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) quarterfinal round, the school’s first postseason appearance since 1996. In 2013-14, Baron’s Griffs posted a 21-13 overall mark and advanced to the MAAC semifinals for the first time since 2002. In his first two years at Canisius, Baron had the opportunity to coach his youngest son, Billy. Billy Baron was named the 2014 MAAC Player of the Year after ranking fourth in the nation in scoring average, and he was also named an Associated Press All-American, Canisius’ first since 1984.
In 2014-15, Canisius won 18 games and advanced to the CIT quarterfinal round for the second time in three years. Last season, Canisius posted 14 wins, capped by a thrilling triple-overtime victory over long-time rival Niagara in the first round of the 2016 MAAC Basketball Championship. That win, Baron’s final victory as head coach of the Canisius program, improved his career record against the Griffs’ oldest rival to 20-3.
Baron retires as one of 13 Division I head coaches to have the opportunity to coach two (or more) of his sons at the NCAA Division I level. He won his 400th career Division I game on Jan. 17, 2013 when the Griffs defeated Manhattan in the Koessler Athletic Center, and he earned career win No. 450 on Nov. 21, 2015 when Canisius beat Cornell 87-62 at home. In his four years at the helm of the Canisius program, the Griffs averaged 74.3 points per game and the team connected on 1,084 3-point field goals, the most 3-pointers made by a Canisius team in a four-year stretch.
In addition to his work on the floor, Baron was a tireless advocate for the student-athlete. In his time as a head coach, all but two players who played for him for four seasons earned their undergraduate degree. Every senior who played for him at Canisius graduated from the College and four players earned a master’s degree from Canisius, including former players Kevin Bleeker and Malcolm McMillan, who were presented with their master’s degrees May 18 at the school’s Graduate Commencement ceremonies. A member of three Halls of Fame, Baron was enshrined into the St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame (2009), the New England Basketball Hall of Fame (2013) and the St. Francis University Sports Hall of Fame (2015) as the coach of the school’s 1990-91 NEC championship team. In April, Baron was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) International Committee for his more than 25 years of service and dedication for sharing the game of basketball with coaches from countries around the world.