Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pecora to Fordham - No News Here

On the evening of Monday March 1st, a very reliable source completely unaffiliated with the Hofstra program texted me and asked me to give them a call. I called them immediately, and the source told me that Fordham was going to offer Pecora their coaching position. The numbers were six years in excess of four million dollars.

How good is the source? Well, the same reliable source told me two years ago about Matt Brady being hired by James Madison 48 hours before the news came out about that. And now, Pecora has been hired by Fordham as their head coach, much to the chagrin of my friend Jerry Beach.

So, why didn't I announce the news on March 1st as I did immediately two years ago about Matt Brady? Well, the difference between hearing about Matt Brady's hiring and the interest in Fordham hiring Tom Pecora was that Brady's season with Marist was already done.

In Pecora's case, his Hofstra team was about to play in the CAA Tournament later that week. The last thing I wanted to do was to write a potentially huge distracting story before an important tournament. I honestly felt I owed it to a team that I watched all year and more importantly to the players themselves.

Apparently some people actually do read my blog, and there was an article I posted here earlier this year that caused some controversy, which to me is now long over and done. But I was not interested in another controversy. Also, by the time the CAA tournament was over, the rumblings started on various blogs about Pecora to Fordham. So it made very little sense to me to chime in on what I had already known for a while.

Then last night, ESPN put this article on their web site. And I knew it was a done deal. Again my source was right. And to be honest, it's not a surprise. When Whittenburg was fired as Fordham coach five games into their season, I thought immediately they would go after Pecora. Then when Fordham announced they were going to significantly increase their men's basketball team budget, it all made sense. And here's why.

Pecora has openly shown his disdain for the CAA since Hofstra joined the conference, a decision made by the previous administration. Pecora and even the Administration have made it no secret that they would like to join the A14..er, A10. The problem is that the A10 already overexpanded by adding St Louis and Charlotte several years ago and has paid for it since. So they are certainly not looking to add any teams.

Thus it made perfect sense for Pecora to go to an A10 school where based on the average number of teams from the Atlantic 10 that have made the tournament the past several years (three), he has a 1 in 5 chance of making the NCAA Tournament as opposed to being in the CAA where you basically have a 1 in 12 chance.

Also, Pecora is a city coach, plain and simple. He loves recruiting New York City/New York Metro kids and has stated that in many articles over the years. That was his and Jay Wright's philosophy when they first started coaching at Hofstra together. Tough New York city kids, often underdogs who know how to play tough hard nosed city ball.

Yes, there have been players such as Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera that were found outside of the New York area. But the core of good players over the past ten or so years, Speedy Claxton, Norman Richardson, Rick Apodaca, Kenny Adeleke, Wendell Gibson. Antoine Agudio, Charles Jenkins, Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic, to name a few, all came from either the NYC area or the NY metro area.

And that philosophy has brought significant success under the Wright and now Pecora tenures. When Wright was coach, Hofstra went to two NCAA tournaments. Under Pecora's tenure, the Pride went to three NIT tournaments and Pecora has had four twenty win plus seasons in the past six seasons (and nearly another this season with 19).

At one time Fordham had a rich tradition of basketball success, especially under the glory years of Digger Phelps. However, their last postseason appearance was in the NCAA Tournament in 1992 and their last win in the NCAA Tournament came under Phelps in 1971.

Now some would say well, Pecora's teams have made at least the semifinals in the CAA only three times in the nine seasons he has coached (2001-02,2004-05,2005-06). And I understand those sentiments. However, you certainly can say the 2005-06 season should have ended up as an NCAA berth, but we all know what happened on Selection Sunday. How would have Pecora's resume looked then. Remember, Seton Hall badly wanted Pecora after that season but he wisely turned them down.

Say what you want about his Xs and Os, which I certainly have questioned several times over the years, thus the term "Pulling a Hofstra". But in fairness, how many coaches locally have made the postseason three times in the past six seasons and won 20 plus games four times in the past six seasons? Norm Roberts had only one postseason tournament appearance in his six year tenure at St John's (this season's first round NIT loss to Memphis) and he was not retained there.

In his four years at Seton Hall, Bobby Gonzalez also made one NIT appearance (also this season, where of course one of his player's hit a Texas Tech player in the groin twice on national TV). And due to the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, let alone the lack of twenty win seasons and his boorish behavior, he was fired last week.

Pecora looks pretty good compared to Roberts and Gonzalez, though mind you the CAA is nowhere near the Big East.

So with the press conference scheduled at 1:00 pm tomorrow, I wish Tom Pecora the best of luck at Fordham. He has a long road ahead of him. It will probably take him four years to get Fordham potentially at a level his 2004-05 Hofstra team achieved. And I will certainly try to take in the first game Pecora's new team will play at the historic Rose Hill Gym.

As for Hofstra's search for a new coach, my same reliable source says that Hofstra has interest in Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, a former UConn point guard and former assistant (and Hofstra AD Jack Hayes previously was at UConn). Pikiell led Stony Brook to their first America East regular season title and a NIT berth with a 22-10 record.

My source also states that the Pride also have interest in Pitt associate head coach Tom Herrion. Herrion had an 80-38 record in his previous coaching stint at the College of Charleston. Finally Hofstra is also looking at C.W. Post head coach Tim Cluess, a Hofstra alum who has taken the Pioneers to two NCAA Division II Tournaments in his four seasons there. Previously Cluess was the head coach at St Mary's High School in Manhasset, where he led the team to three NY State titles and a 264-78 record in 15 seasons.

Whoever is the next coach of Hofstra gets a very solid nucleus with Charles Jenkins returning for his senior season, as well as all time shot block leader Greg Washington and two very good soon to be sophomores in Kanacevic and Williams. If Branden Frazier, one of the top ten players in New York City, keeps his verbal commitment to Hofstra, and that is certainly questionable, then the team looks even better. Here's the problem - Frazier chose Hofstra over Fordham, where obviously Pecora is now. Hmmm.

Finally my same source says that four current Division I coaches are up for the Seton Hall job - Mike Lonergan of Vermont, Mike Rice of Robert Morris, Kevin Willard of Iona and Fran McCaffery of Siena. My money is on McCaffery.

3 comments:

  1. Great article. What do you think the probability is Hofstra lands one of those three coaches? I think all 3 would be excellent, but I'm leaning a bit toward Herrion or Cluess.

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  2. First, thanks for the comment! Second, the probability is one in five, which includes current Hofstra Associate Head Coach Van Macon and another rumored candidate Dave Leitao, who formerly was the head coach of Northeastern, DePaul and Virginia.

    The question is "Will Hofstra take the next step in their program?" Hofstra really needs to make a commitment to their basketball program in light of their ending of the football program.

    The school has said they will not remove the money that was allotted for the football program from the budget. Here is hoping they take the money and put a good deal of it into the men's basketball program.

    I am always leary of taking former coaches who have been at several places. The ideal person is someone who has been a head coach but has moved up the ranks and is hungry for the opportunity.

    You'll have to tune in to my next post to find out who I will recommend for the position.

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