By Pete Iorizzo

“I love him!” said Minerva Martinez, the Albany restaurant’s owner. “All of my employees, when Jimmy’s here, we just go crazy. All the employees want to work when Jimmy’s in town. We all love him. I think he’d be the perfect fit for Siena.”

The Loyola coach has been bringing his team to Barcelona — and ordering the calamari and steak — with every visit to Albany during the past nine years, while with Siena’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival.

And you know what? The Barcelona’s staff isn’t alone in thinking one of the most theatrical coaches in all of college basketball might not look out of place on the Siena sideline.

It’s widely known in coaching circles that Patsos would walk from Baltimore to Loudonville just for the chance to interview. And it would be surprising if the Siena administration didn’t at least kick Patsos’ tires.

He may not be the most likely hire to emerge from this national search to replace Mitch Buonaguro, but if given the job, Patsos also would be much more than just the Siena basketball coach. In this town, he’d be a rock star.

After all, he’s often worth the price of admission. If he’s not tearing off his jacket or tugging at his tie, he’s pointing a finger inches from a player’s face or banging his palms on the court, all while contorting his face into such a range of expressions, it’s a wonder he doesn’t pull a muscle.

He raises his voice loud enough to be heard in the upper deck — though his language may be too colorful for the family section — and if he happens to pick up a technical foul in the process, well, so be it.

He loves Albany, too, so much so that he plugs Barcelona during postgame interviews and regularly argues for the league’s tournament to return to Times Union Center, the Saints’ home-court advantage be darned.

But that’s all window dressing. Patsos shouldn’t get consideration from Siena just because he’ll fill up the highlight reels. The guy can coach, too.

The year before Patsos, a former assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland, took over at Loyola, the program won a single game. It took some time, but Patsos turned the Greyhounds into an NCAA Tournament team last season, then won 21 games this year before losing to Manhattan in the MAAC quarterfinals.

He also could flood the Siena roster with players from the Washington, D.C., area, a region produces as much Division I talent as any in the country.

The question, though, is whether Siena would hire a coach who is more likely to show up on Deadspin than Sports Illustrated.

Could Siena live with a coach who might … oh, I don’t know … go 10 rows deep into the stands in the middle of a game and start up a conversation with the school president? Or double-team an opposing school’s best player for the entire game — even when the player doesn’t even have the ball?

Maybe not.

But remember, Fran McCaffery was no sideline saint, either, and Mike Deane wasn’t beloved for his airtight brain-to-mouth filter. If Siena does want its men’s basketball program back on the national landscape, there’s something to be said for having a coach with a Shaq-sized personality.

Loyola is moving from the MAAC to the Patriot League next season, so this past year’s appearance in Albany could have been Patsos’ last.

“When I told the staff,” Martinez said, “they were like, ‘Oh, no, we want Jimmy back!'”

He’ll always be a welcomed spectacle at Times Union Center, too — on either bench.