Stephanie Gaitley Named Fairleigh Dickinson Head Coach

The 11-year former head coach of the Fordham women’s basketball team return to college coaching



Gaitley coached the Rams for 11 years and transformed the team into a winning program.


Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) announced on April 21 that Stephanie Gaitley — former Fordham head coach and one of the winningest coaches in NCAAW history — will join the women’s basketball program as head coach for the 2023-24 season. The announcement comes after a yearlong hiatus following Gaitley’s departure from Fordham; she passed the time coaching high school basketball in Ocean City. This is big news for East Coast basketball, but for Gaitley, it was a natural next step.

“The more I navigated the (coaching) process, high school wasn’t the niche I wanted to end in,” Gaitley told The Observer. She toured many programs, including Oregon University, the University of South Carolina and North Carolina State University, but her move to FDU came through connections she had built over the years with FDU Director of Athletics Brad Hurlbut.

“I am as excited today as I was when I got my first head coaching job,” Gaitley said the day of the announcement. “I have gotten to know Brad over the past few years, and he was always so passionate about his vision for FDU. Everyone in the country saw that in the men’s run in the tournament. When I visited, I felt a family atmosphere immediately.”

Culture has always been important to Gaitley, and she described her focus at Fordham as fostering a supportive, winning environment. She hired staff and recruited players who would fit in with the team’s attitude and embrace player-coach relationships in the program.

“We had an incredible culture that we built there,” she said of her time at Rose Hill.

Her legacy at Fordham is indisputable. When she joined in 2011, the Rams had not had a winning season in decades. She transformed the program into a reputable name and ended her tenure with a 684-393 record across 36 years of collegiate coaching. She headed the women’s basketball teams at Richmond University, St. Joseph’s University, Long Island University and Monmouth University before Fordham. Her all-time record puts her at 20th among active coaches in the NCAA, an impressive accomplishment.

Interestingly, Gaitley’s appointment at FDU is not the beginning of this story. Fairleigh Dickinson had an opening after former head coach Angela Szumilo left for the same position at Iona University. Iona had an opening because of the departure of Billi Chambers, who has now set up shop at Xavier University. And Xavier was hiring because it recently let go of its head coach, Melanie Moore, who had a disappointing 24-81 record in four seasons. Moore has since moved on in the coaching world, returning to Michigan University as an assistant. 

That saga offered Gaitley the window she needed to jump back into the game, putting Fairleigh Dickinson’s future in capable hands. Gaitley has proven herself as a defensively minded coach who cares about player development and retention. Her focus on culture will inject more momentum into a university that has already made a name for itself on the biggest stage, when the No. 16-seeded men’s program defeated No. 1-seeded Purdue University in the first round and fell in the second round in the 2023 NCAA tournament.

It is an exciting development for FDU, and Gaitley’s reputation precedes her. A leader with such a pedigree — 20 postseason appearances, counting both the NCAA and the National Invitational Tournament, eight of which were at Fordham — is just what Fairleigh Dickinson is looking for in its new era of basketball.