Gaitley Leads Women’s Basketball Into a New Era


New head coach Stephanie Gaitley looks to guide women’s basketball to a tradition of winning. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)

A new era of women’s basketball is about to begin at Fordham. After years of losing seasons, including a winless 2007-2008 campaign, Fordham hired Head Coach Stephanie Gaitley, who brings experience and skill to the team. Gaitley signed a multi-year contract with the Rams after completing a 23-win season that netted a Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) appearance. With Fordham, Gaitley hopes to turn the team around and lead them to success in a competitive Atlantic 10 (A-10) conference.

Over the past 25 years, Gaitley has coached Long Island University, Monmouth, Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Richmond. During that span, Gaitley compiled a 464-270 record that included 12 20-win seasons.

The announcement of Gaitley’s hire comes just a year after Fordham hired Tom Pecora to coach the men’s basketball team. This continues Fordham’s commitment to revamping their basketball program.

Gaitley was drawn to Fordham because of its promise and enthusiasm to be successful in women’s basketball as well as academics. As of Fall 2010, Fordham ranked third best in the A-10 with 108 student athletes with a 3.5 GPA or higher. “I wanted to represent a school that I would have chosen myself if I was a student. I admire Fordham’s commitment to basketball as well as academics,” Gaitley said. “I think it’s important that the students have a strong work ethic. Successful students are successful athletes.”

As head coach, Gaitley wants to change what she calls the “mentality of mediocrity.” She acknowledges that it takes time to build a winning team and there is a specific process for doing so, but in order to do that the team must abandon the culture of losing.  “You want to change accepting mediocrity,” Gaitley said. “[If you don’t,] you almost get accustomed to it.”

In addition, Gaitley looks to revitalize the Rams’ defense. In any professional team sport the teams most commonly seen winning championships are the teams that emphasize defense rather than winning dependent on offense alone. It is no different in basketball.  In her last three years at Monmouth, Gaitley recorded a winning record each season because of her tough defense, which allowed less than 60 points per game each year. “It’s the foundation of every program I take over,” Gaitley said. “Defense keeps you in it and helps you win games.”

In preparation for next season, Gaitley just recently returned from a scouting trip in Europe to find international students. Gaitley went to Europe not only to scout talent, but also to create and foster a strong player-coach relationship. Gaitley believes player-coach relationships are extremely important because the student will spend the next four years with that coach and because it helps the team chemistry. Gaitley wants to incorporate more international students so the roster will be more diverse and versatile. “I want the roster to reflect the diversity of the school and of the city. Right now that’s not in place, but I want to get it there.” By introducing international talent to the team, Gaitley can fill the five vacancies left by the soon-to-be-graduating senior class.

Gaitley’s emphasis on a strong defense, international talent and team chemistry could prove to be a winning combination for the Rams. But above all elsec what Gaitley wants is for her players to enjoy their time at Fordham regardless of wins, losses and championships. “I want my players, at the end of their four years, to choose Fordham all over again.”

Gaitley’s first game as Fordham’s new head coach won’t be until November of the next academic year, but it is clear she is ready for the task. Next year may or may not be a winning season for the Rams, but with Gaitley at the helm, they appear to be taking a step in the right direction. “We’re going to do the small things well,” Gaitley said. “If you don’t do the small things well, you won’t get the big things done.”