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Greyhounds' New Skipper Excited About '05
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January 17, 2005 - Wheeling, WV-The Ohio Valley Greyhounds have a new lead dog.

Former Oakland Raiders pro bowl wide receiver Mike Siani was introduced as the new head coach at a news conference at the Greyhounds' headquarters.
Siani comes to Wheeling after serving as the leader of the expansion Atlantic City CardSharks last year in the National Indoor Football League.

After a 1-4 start, Siani piloted the CardSharks to a 9-5 regular season record and a berth in the Atlantic Conference playoffs.

Atlantic City lost to eventual champion Lexington, 54-25 in the first round. But getting an expansion team to the postseason in its inaugural season is an accomplishment in itself.

"Last year was probably one of my most rewarding, most fun experiences as a coach,'' Siani said. "We started with nothing; a brand new team, no players, no front office and built it into a winner.

"I really enjoyed last year.''

Siani now moves from a fledgling organization, to a well-established organization in a fledgling league.

The Greyhounds were one of the more stable and well-run franchises in the NIFL with a given track record of success.

And that was a big factor for Siani in deciding to hop on board with the Greyhounds.

"The interest in (coming here) is very simple,'' Siani explained. "I've known (managing partner) George (Kellas) and John (Blackmore) for a couple of years and, in my opinion, they have had the best organization in the league and their record speaks for itself.''

Siani, the third head coach in Greyhounds history, inherits a franchise that has posted a 56-9 record over the past four seasons.

He replaces Mark Bonar, who guided the Greyhounds to a pair of NIFL Indoor Bowl championships during his three year run before resigning last month.

That being said, Siani has some pretty big shoes to fill here locally, but the coach is taking a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it,'' type of approach.

Don't look for any wholesale changes to the team itself or the way it conducts itself on the field. Siani isn't looking to rock the boat, but rather to make minor changes here and there to formulate the team to his liking.

"As I told (Kellas) in regards to the players and the (assistant) coaches, I'm not coming in here to make a big overhaul,'' Siani said.

"I don't see any reason to.

"All I'm doing is coming in and taking the nucleus of a great organization and try to tweak it a little bit and improve on it if I can.''

One minor change fans may notice is a slight shift in offensive philosophy.

Year prior, the Greyhounds were the blue collar team of the NIFL, wearing out opposing defenses on the ground with a punishing offensive line and a stable of capable backs.

But Siani, being a former wide receiver in the NFL, is a bit inclined to pass.

"I'd say I throw the ball a little bit more than what Coach Bonar did,'' Of course, with his offensive line and running backs, I would have done the exact same.

"If anything, maybe I'm a little more pass oriented because of my background and maybe a bit more creative in the passing game.''

A two-time All-American wideout at Villanova, Siani was the 21st overall pick selected in the 1972 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders.

Playing alongside greats like Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch, Siani caught 158 passes for 2,618 yards and 17 touchdowns during his tenure in the NFL.

He was a member of the 1976 Raiders' team that defeated Minnesota in Super Bowl XI and was a Pro Bowl selection following the 1973 season before retiring in 1981. Siani intends today to talk to the assistants as well as some of last year's players to find out if they are in fact interested in returning for the 2005 season.

He is also looking at possibly bringing some of his players from Atlantic City along for the ride. "I haven't talked to any of them yet,'' Siani said of his former players. "But I'd like to talk to a few of them to see if they are interested.

"Eddie Bynes was one of the top defensive players in the league, the guy is an absolute force.

"Also, my quarterback Tony Racioppi, I'd like to try to get him in here, along with Eric Magrini and Rocco DeMaise.''

Racioppi was trying to catch on with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League, but if he's available, Siani thinks he'd be a great fit for the Greyhounds. Bynes and Racioppi are both impact players, which the Greyhounds will need in the new indoor world of the UIF.

The 12-team league is comprised of the best of the NIFL and Arena 2 leagues. There are no slouches here which means every game should be a challenge.

"Based on what I've seen, these are the top teams from other leagues and I think it will be a very competitive league,'' Siani said. "Every week, we'll be playing good teams and we won't have too many blowouts like last year when the Greyhounds played Staten Island and Myrtle Beach.''

Ohio Valley kicks off the UIF season on March 20 in a road matchup with the Fort Wayne Freedom. The Greyhounds first home date is scheduled for April 15 when the Dayton Warbirds come calling.

Siani is a native of Staten Island, N.Y and currently resides in Myrtle Beach, S.C. with his wife Joy. He has three children, Dan, 25, currently enlisted in the United States Air Force, Danielle, 24, and Alexis, 21.

*This article courtesy of Mike Hughes, The Intelligencer

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