The End of an Era at Fordham Women’s Basketball

Precipitous coaching changes and a full rebuild follow Fordham women’s basketball’s rise



Green discusses with assistant coaches Jennings, Holden and Brown.


Anyone who has been following Fordham Athletics will have noticed the buzz surrounding the women’s basketball team. In two short years, a decadelong coaching regimen was dismantled, and an entire team was broken apart. It is not uncommon for new coaches to arrive at a college program and encourage players to enter the transfer portal — or for administrations to release an entire coaching staff at once — but seeing this play out at Rose Hill hits home for those who’ve enjoyed the recent success of the Rams.

Stephanie Gaitley, former head basketball coach at Fordham and current head basketball coach at Fairleigh Dickinson, served as a great sigh of relief for fans in 2011, when she took command of the faltering squad. Her reputation as a winning coach at St. Joseph’s, Long Island and Monmouth universities preceded her, and hope abounded for the Fordham women’s basketball team. She radically transformed the Fordham basketball brand, taking the team to the first round of the NCAA tournament first in 2013-14 and then again in 2018-19. It was by and large a tremendously successful turnaround for the program; the Rams had not made the postseason since 1994.

“When I took over, we hadn’t had a winning season in 25 years,” Gaitley said. “We had an incredible culture that we built there. This group cared about each other, and they wanted each other to be successful.”

“It was a shock for all of us. Coach Gaitley had built this family; we really loved each other.”Candice Green, interim head coach

And so for many, it came as a surprise when Gaitley was quietly let go in June 2022 following an 18-11 season. According to her, she stepped away to protect the image of the team following a troubled past at St. Joseph’s University, where she was let go in a high-profile manner related to an internal investigation. While leaving silently prevented controversy from affecting the team, it raised many questions regarding the future of the team. 

“Before their season started, the kids reached out, and it was a tough situation for all of us,” Gaitley said. “Out of respect to them I stepped away.”

Many players who have grown to be Rose Hill superstars — Anna DeWolfe, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’23, Asiah Dingle and Kaitlyn Downey, both Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ’23 — were developed under Gaitley’s program. Gaitley’s defensive-minded praxis, communication and culture-building were signatures of her coaching that helped the team become a contender in the conference. She had produced a sustainable program whose culture would attract talent. 

“If I was there for five years, I believe (DeWolfe) would have stayed at Fordham,” Gaitley said. “The plan was for her to stay at Fordham — I saw her becoming the all time leading scorer. The future was bright.”

When Gaitley left, her shoes had to be filled quickly. In the immediate aftermath, it was obvious that a rebuild was in order. Candice Green, former assistant coach, worked alongside Gaitley and was given the title of interim head coach following Gaitley’s leave. While Green was offered an opportunity to apply for the full head coach position for the 2023-24 season, the message from Fordham Athletics was clear: 2022-23 is the last dance.

“It was a shock for all of us. Coach Gaitley had built this family; we really loved each other,” Green said about Gaitley’s departure. “But we were taking the year (2022-23) as ‘Hey, it’s our chance to salvage this moment.’”

Green’s leadership in her lone season as interim head coach was emblematic of that attitude. Alongside Anita Jennings, Lauren Holden and Liz Brown — assistants under Gaitley who stayed with Green — the women’s basketball coaching staff led their players through increasingly tough competitions. Weathering injuries and setbacks, the Rams fought their way to the second round of the women’s National Invitational Tournament.

“We were just happy to win a postseason game, not too many teams get a chance to do that,” Green said about the Rams’ 73-63 win against Drexel University. 

Before their second-round matchup against Columbia University, Green told her team with confidence that it didn’t have to be their last game. With eight seniors leaving, they had nothing to lose. The Rams, however, did fall in the end to Columbia 78-73.

It remains to be seen who will receive playing time and who will find themselves in the Bronx through the transfer portal next year, but it is clear that Gaitley’s era of basketball has finally ended, and Mitchell’s has just begun. 

As quickly as the year had gone, so had the coaching staff. In one fell swoop, Green and her assistants were let go at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. The administration thanked the staff privately and in a Twitter post. Ed Kull, director of intercollegiate athletics, was amicable and fielded a good relationship with the staff, according to Green.

“They wanted to go in a different direction, but I was grateful for the opportunity,” Green said. “Me and Ed have a great relationship.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Chatter abounded, and soon DeWolfe, star shooter for the Rams, had accepted an offer and transferred to Notre Dame University. Those close to DeWolfe and the women’s basketball program were unsurprised, considering the future outlook of the team. Early on in the 2022-23 season, Green was made aware that DeWolfe did not want to end her career at Fordham.

“She wanted to play for a team that could make a deep run in the tournament,” Green said. “She gave us four years of high-level basketball; we couldn’t fault her for taking the opportunity.” 

Nevertheless, the timing is conspicuous. DeWolfe’s skills are evidently better served at Notre Dame, but to leave right as the program is being renewed is food for thought. When newly minted Head Coach Bridgette Mitchell arrived on campus from Northeastern University, everyone knew another change would come.

“From my understanding, half the team has already left,” Gaitley said, referencing the ever-active transfer portal. On Sunday, Colleen McQuillen, FCRH ’25, announced her transfer to Lehigh University, a fellow Atlantic 10 school.

For now, the only thing known is that the eight seniors left and two returning players have elected to transfer. It remains to be seen who will receive playing time and who will find themselves in the Bronx through the transfer portal next year, but it is clear that Gaitley’s era of basketball has finally ended, and Mitchell’s has just begun.