Fordham Leaves Too Many Questions Unanswered After Firing Tom Pecora

By Charles Costello

Fordham fired head men’s basketball coach Tom Pecora last Wednesday, five years after he was brought in to turn around a program that had struggled to find its footing in the Atlantic 10 for a decade and a half.

Five seasons and 106 losses later, the school is back to square one, yet again searching for its basketball savior.

I think Fordham made a big mistake letting go of Pecora. You can’t argue with the poor results, but you can still question the logic behind his firing. Then again, that logic has never been explained, leading to what I think are legitimate questions about whether or not it even exists.

In a press release announcing the firing, the school said “the decision was based on the fact that the University’s men’s basketball program has regrettably not achieved the desired results or made the sustained progress hoped for under Mr. Pecora’s leadership.”

It went on to mention the program’s retention rate (50 percent, not including this year’s freshman class) as another reason for his dismissal.

There was no press conference, and Fordham has not made anyone available to comment except for a 60-minute appearance by David Roach, the school’s athletic director, Saturday afternoon on WFUV Radio.

During that interview, Roach briefly addressed the firing, said he’d prefer to move on and focus on the future and seemed to want to talk just as much about some of the school’s other teams as he did its flagship program.

“I think our press release when we made the announcement on Wednesday really summed it up and says it all,” Roach said about firing Pecora. “At the end of the day, he didn’t have enough success.”

There’s no way you can dispute that. Pecora was 44-106 in his five years at Rose Hill, including 10-21 this season.

“At this point, I’m kind of focusing on the future for men’s basketball, looking for a coach and making sure we do everything possible to bring someone here to Rose Hill to give us a great program and give our student-athletes a positive and winning experience,” Roach added.

I get what he’s saying. He wants to move on. He’s the boss. Why put yourself out there when nobody at the university is asking you to do so?

Unfortunately, because of Fordham’s refusal to talk (Roach turned down two interview requests with Bleacher Report. Jeff Gray, Vice President for Student Affairs, turned down one request with B/R), too many questions are left unanswered.

For starters, why make the decision now? With two years left on his contract, two stud freshmen (Eric Paschall and Christian Sengfelder) and the feeling that with a year of development under its belt, this young team could turn the corner in 2015-16, why not give it one more year? If it doesn’t work out at that point, it probably never will. Then you could make a change.

Here’s another one: When was the decision made? What did Pecora have to do to keep his job? In an interview with the New York Post‘s Zach Braziller in December, Roach didn’t exactly give Pecora a ringing endorsement.

“I’ll evaluate everything at the end of the year and see where we’re at,” he said.

That’s not much different than what he told B/R last summer, but it raised plenty of eyebrows. Given how he said it’s something he “can feel” and not all about wins and losses, when did he start feeling he’d fire Pecora?

I’d also like to get Roach’s take on what he thought about the win over George Mason in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament one week before the firing. What did he think about Fordham being up five points with nine minutes, 10 seconds left against VCU the following day in what would have been one of the biggest upsets in school history? Paschall, who only played 11 minutes in the opener, did not play in that game. VCU went on to win the A-10 championship.

Furthermore, what does Roach think about the revolving door of coaches at Rose Hill? Nick Macarchuk survived four years in the A-10. Bob Hill lasted four as well. Dereck Whittenburg made it into his seventh season. Pecora got five. Is it that none of those guys can coach? Or do Fordham’s problems run much deeper than that? Is it an issue of resources? Facilities?

And what about this one: Is the A-10 the right fit for the Rams? As I said during the season, if Fordham gets rid of Pecora, its next call should be to A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade to discuss its future in the conference. The New York Post‘s Mike Vaccaro reopened that conversation right after Pecora was fired.

If Roach felt so strongly that a change in leadership was needed, then he should have made himself available to answer those questions. He’s a smart guy. He can hold his own.

Instead, the powers that be at Rose Hill hid behind a press release and just expected the story to go away.

Fordham is better than that.