I woke up at 2 PM today to my notifications in a flurry. In a move that was more surprising for it’s timing than it’s results, Fordham Men’s Basketball has moved on from Jeff Neubauer after five-and-a-half seasons. After the Rams’ wins decreased year-after-year under Neubauer, Fordham decided to pull the plug with a few months left on his contract, giving assistant Michael Depaoli the reins for the rest of the season.
As soon as Fordham made today’s announcement, the college basketball world was abuzz with names of potential suitors for Fordham Basketball. Today, I’ll break down what I think Fordham should prioritize in picking a new head coach, along with the three favorite names I saw today.
Before I get into the names I liked today, I think it’s important to outline exactly what I think a coach needs to accomplish to win over Fordham fans.
The first priority is recruiting. This shouldn’t be too hard, since head coaches always look to bring in their own generation of players to work with. What will set a new coach apart from Neubauer is their ability to bring in top talent from the New York Area. If top prospects are going to blue blood schools like Duke or Kentucky, then so be it. However, it’s time for Rose Hill Gym to stop selling out when Dayton comes to town because their new Freshman is from St. Raymond high school. Fordham University is an historic institution of New York City, and it’s time for the basketball team to reflect that.
In terms of X’s and O’s, Fordham’s next coach is going to have to conduct an entire offensive overhaul. Jeff Neubauer took much pride in Fordham’s defense during his tenure in the Bronx, but his team consistently struggled on the other side of the ball, resulting in the Rams having the worst defense in the country so far this year. The Atlantic 10 is a conference full of high-volume shooting teams, so Fordham’s next head coach should make it their top priority to bring scoring way up.
I’ll be listing today’s head coaching options in order of how much I want them to coach the Rams. As the season progresses, I’ll be adding more names to the list in order of who I think would be the best fit.
1. Jared Grasso (Current: Head Coach at Bryant)
Grasso has been my favorite Coach to replace before today’s news, and his name is being thrown around a lot on Twitter right now, but I think it’s a long shot. In his third season at Bryant University, Grasso has turned the Bulldogs into a top team in the NEC. Establishing his system of “12seven4” (12 months a year, seven days a week, 4 hours a day), Grasso made work ethic a top priority for his team, resulting in the Bulldogs tripling their win total from 2018 to 2019. Now, Bryant is 10-3 this year, first in the NEC, and scoring 89 points per game. While Grasso has been able to bring in some of his own talent, such as sophomore Michael Green III, Grasso emphasized on his entry to the program that “players are players.” While bringing in new talent is going to be crucial, Grasso would be able to build the foundations of a new culture at Fordham Basketball with the current roster.
2. Luke Murray (Current: Assistant Coach at Louisville)
The highest ranked assistant coach on ESPN’s 40 under 40 this year, Murray would be a great fit for Fordham after not getting the head coaching job at Illinois-Chicago. Murray might be looking to go to a higher profile program after his time at Louisville is done, but I really think his strengths as a coach fill exactly what Fordham has been missing for so long. First, Murray played a key role in bringing in Louisville’s top-10 2019 recruiting class. Currently sophomores, that recruiting class has been a major contribution to Louisville’s current 10-3 season, including David Johnson, who’s averaging a nice 13-6-3.9 this year. On the court, Murray’s biggest focus is developing perimeter shooting, something that Fordham continues to struggle in. Murray is also a New York native, hailing from Palisades, so it would be nice to have a guy from the metropolitan area taking the helm of the team.
3. Grant Billmeier (Current: Assistant Coach at Seton Hall)
I don’t absolutely love Billmeier, and it might be hard to rip the man away from his alma mater, but I think his name is worth throwing into the ring. Billmeier’s name has been floating around as someone who’s looking to take control of a team for a while now, and I think Fordham could be a good spot for someone like him to mold into their own. Billmeier played center during his playing career, and has made developing the Pirates’ forwards a top priority to much success. While I don’t think that’s exactly what Fordham needs right now, continuing the Fordham tradition of strong defense could build a foundation for more offensive improvements with assistant coaches he can bring in.
I’ll be following Fordham’s head coaching search all season, so check back here regularly for more updates!