College Basketball

Pecora Faces Tough Task at Fordham

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Tom Pecora struck a happy pose in a reception hall at Fordham with his wife, two of his children, the athletic director, the university president and nine players from a basketball program that usually ends its season with March sadness.

Fordham University

Tom Pecora

The Quad

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Fordham’s president, the Rev. Joseph McShane, had proclaimed Thursday as a day “filled with hope.” He laid out the expectations for Pecora, whom he hired away from Hofstra on Wednesday with a five-year deal worth about $650,000 a year.

“We believe that he is the man to return Fordham first to respectability and then to frightening glory, and I do mean frightening,” McShane said at a news conference to introduce Pecora. “We do hope the new coach will strike with what he does, will strike fear in the hearts of the other Atlantic 10 coaches.”

The Rams have served as a virtual bye for those coaches the last two seasons. They finished 3-25 in 2008-9 and 2-26 this season. Over the past two seasons, they were 1-31 in the Atlantic 10. The Rams are 65-175 over all in the conference. In February, Fordham announced that it would put more money into the program, vaulting it from the bottom third to the top third of the Atlantic 10.

“The reason we haven’t won was due to a lack of institutional commitment,” the athletic director, Frank McLaughlin, said. “I think the board of trustees recognized that. That’s why they took such a strong stand to emphasize that Fordham cares about having a combination of outstanding academics and a first-class basketball program.”

Pecora, from Queens, went 155-126 in nine seasons at Hofstra, winning at least 19 games five times. Under Pecora, Hofstra made three National Invitation Tournament appearances. He was also an assistant there for seven years before taking over as coach. During that stretch, the Pride went to the N.C.A.A. tournament twice.

Pecora, coming off a 19-15 season at Hofstra, said the challenge of building Fordham’s program and competing in the Atlantic 10 appealed to him.

“I just know it feels right,” Pecora said.

He comes with the all-important established recruiting ties in New York City’s basketball community and in the talent-rich tri-state area.

“The relationships I have are longstanding,” Pecora said. “It’s like visiting a friend when I go to see their players play, and we cut through all the baloney.”

“Everybody in this conference is really good,” said the freshman forward Chris Gaston, the Atlantic 10’s rookie of the year. “I think Coach Pecora is going to come in and he’s just going to help us turn it around.”

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