Pecora leaves behind proud era of Hofstra basketball

 Courtesy Hofstra Athletic Communications
The Tom Pecora era at Hofstra drew to a close today when the longtime men's basketball coach accepted the head coaching position at Fordham. While this day is filled with much sadness from many Pride fans it is important to reflect on what Pecora has meant to Hofstra men's basketball and the university as a whole since first arriving in Hempstead 16 years ago.

When Pecora's stint began before the 1994/95 season as Jay Wright's top assistant the then Flying Dutchmen were ranked one of the lowest teams in Division I. Five years later thanks to tireless recruiting by Pecora to land future NBA players Craig "Speedy" Claxton and Norman Richardson, Hofstra made the national spotlight with back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament after capturing America East titles held before packed home crowds on ESPN in 2000 and 2001.

After the Pride's 2001 NCAA run that included a near upset of UCLA in the first round, Wright landed at Big East power Villanova and Pecora was handed the keys to the program that only returned one starter and was about to enter a more challenging conference in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Hofstra was under .500 the first three years of the Pecora era but by the 2004/2005 season the Pride were CAA contenders and made its first of three straight NIT appearances.   

The second of these NIT bids in 2006 came in the wake of being snubbed of an NCAA Tournament invite after losing in the CAA title game to UNC Wilmington and carrying a 24-6 record and RPI of 30 into Selection Sunday. Despite not receiving a bid to the Big Dance while CAA rival George Mason ( who Hofstra beat twice,) was awarded an invite and eventually embarked on a Cinderella run to the Final Four, Pecora handled the disappointment with class. He got his team focused and ready for an NIT run that included wins over Nebraska and at St. Joseph's before the season ended in heartbreaking fashion with a quarterfinal loss to Old Dominion that snapped a 21 game home winning streak.

Pecora continued to be the valuable recruiter he was under Wright when he was head coach and helped to produce the prolific three-guard backcourt of Loren Stokes, Carlos Rivera and Antoine Agudio that catapulted this magical 2005/2006 season. Unfortunately 2006 would be as close as Pecora would get to an NCAA Tournament, but that year's NIT run combined with George Mason reaching the Final Four after the Pride had beaten the Patriots twice earned Hofstra plenty of positive national attention.

Pecora was 155-126 in his nine seasons as Hofstra head coach and more importantly than the wins and losses he was an outstanding spokesman for the university and worked hard to assure that the program was represented by quality student-athletes. Pecora made sure his players earned their degrees and he has said before that seeing them in their cap and gown on graduation day is what makes him most proud as a coach.

Pecora now takes over a Fordham program that was 2-26 and 0-16 in the Atlantic 10 last season. I have no doubt though just like he achieved at Hofstra from 1994-2010, Pecora will turn Fordham into a winner on and off the court.   

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