After Tough Year, Fordham Names New Coach


Published: April 1, 2010

Fordham University took another step towards rehabilitating its struggling men’s basketball program on March 25, when executive director of athletics Frank McLaughlin and university president Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., announced Tom Pecora as the new head coach for the 2010-2011 season.

The hiring comes more than a month after the university approved a “significant” increase to the program’s budget, raising it from the bottom third to the top third of the Atlantic 10 conference in terms of funding. Pecora reportedly signed a five-year contract with Fordham for about $650,000 a year.

“We believe he is the man to return Fordham first to respectability and then to frightening glory, and we do mean frightening,” McShane said of Pecora. “We hope that coach [Pecora] will strike fear into the hearts of other Atlantic 10 coaches. The conference says now ‘We want Fordham to be strong.’ But in three years, I want them to regret that.”

Pecora said, “When you talk about Fordham, there’s excellence throughout the university on so many levels. Now our goal is to restore the basketball program to that level.”

The road back to frightening glory will be a long, uphill struggle for Pecora and the Rams, who went 2-26 this season and have won just one conference game in the past two seasons. This season, head coach Dereck Whittenburg was fired on Dec. 3 and replaced by interim head coach Jared Grasso. Sophomore guard and leading scorer Jio Fontan announced he would be seeking a transfer the day before, and did not play another game the rest of the season.

Despite the challenges, Pecora, a native New Yorker who just finished his ninth season as head men’s basketball coach at Hofstra University on Long Island, is confident he has found a home at Rose Hill.

“I just know it,” Pecora said. “It feels right, and in situations like this you have to go with your gut.”

Pecora said that when he first met with the Fordham players, he told them to expect great things.

“I told these guys, we’re going to make history, so you can’t be afraid of change,” Pecora said. “We’ll say publicly that it’s a big change and it will take time, but I’m not a patient guy, and I know these guys aren’t that patient.

“It’s similar to the way Hofstra was when Jay [Wright] and I took over. There were 305 [division I] teams and we were 297,” Pecora said. “When I saw this open, I was intrigued. It’s a sleeping giant. If we get support from the New York basketball community, and we work as hard as I know we’ll work, everything is in place.”

McLaughlin said that the university has no specific metric for success in Pecora’s first season, but he hopes to see an evident change in the direction of the program.

“I’m not concerned about winning and losing,” McLaughlin said. “I’m concerned about the team playing hard. If the team plays hard and people respect us, and we keep getting top recruits, the wins will come.”

Pecora’s skills as a recruiter, especially in the New York area, were a key to his hiring.
“We were looking for somebody who has strong ties to the New York basketball community,” McLaughlin said. “That is the heart of our program. With Tom, we made the right choice. He’s very well respected here.”