Jim Baron is returning to western New York to face the familiar challenge of rebuilding a struggling men's basketball program — this time at Canisius College.
The midtown-Buffalo-based school announced Monday that Baron had signed a five-year contract and will be formally introduced at a news conference on Tuesday. The move comes a month after Baron was fired after 11 years at Rhode Island following a 7-24 finish this season.
Despite the Rams' recent struggles, Baron was a three-time Atlantic-10 Conference coach of the year at Rhode Island, enjoyed six 20-win seasons and in 2010 led the program to a final four NIT berth.
The 58-year-old returns to familiar territory, having previously coached and played at St. Bonaventure, located a 90-minute drive from Buffalo. He also opened his coaching career in nearby Rochester. Overall, Baron has a 390-367 career record, and earned two NCAA tournament berths, in 1991 at St. Francis, Pa., and in 2000 at St. Bonaventure.
At Canisius, Baron replaces Tom Parrotta, who was fired last month after a 5-25 finish and after going 64-121 over six seasons. And he inherits a perennial loser, as the Golden Griffins have gone 114-217 over the past 11 years, including 60-138 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games.
''We have hired a man who has a proven track record of building successful basketball programs and developing young men,'' athletic director Bill Maher said. ''Our goal is to win the MAAC Championship.''
A winning season would be a step forward for a Golden Griffins program that hasn't enjoyed one since going 20-11 in 2000-01. Canisius hasn't been a basketball power since the mid-1990s, when Michigan coach John Beilein led the Golden Griffins to three straight postseason berths, including an NCAA appearance in 1996.
Baron was immediately pegged as one of the frontrunners for the job, and he spent part of last week touring Canisius' campus and meeting with school officials.
On the bright side, he takes over a team that returns all five starters and will include three promising transfers who will be eligible to play this season.
Baron is best known in the area for his nine-year tenure in rebuilding St. Bonaventure where he led the Bonnies to two NIT appearances and their NCAA tournament berth in 2000, the program's first in 22 years.
''I'm tremendously excited about the prospect of working with Jim to restore Golden Griffin basketball to glory,'' school president John Hurley said.