Fordham Finally Has Coach, And It’s EKU’s Jeff Neubauer

Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer will be announced as the new Fordham head coach sometime Monday according to multiple sources and first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.

Neubauer posted a 188-134 record in 10 years at Eastern Kentucky, leading the Colonels to a pair of NCAA Tournaments (2007, 2014) and has posted three straight 20-win seasons, the 2014-15 season ending at 21-12 with a loss to Tennessee-Martin in the quarterfinals of the CIT Wednesday.

Neubauer, who took over for Travis Ford after he left for Massachusetts, was rumored for several jobs after last season, which saw the Colonels beat out both Murray State and Belmont – the current top two programs in the OVC – for the conference title. EKU then led Kansas for much of their NCAA contest before falling as well.

But Neubauer, who had only one OVC losing record in his decade in Richmond, Ky., signed a contract extension after last season through 2018.

A few things about Neubauer were enticing to Fordham, first and foremost his record at a school that had struggled in the OVC until Ford arrived (EKU’s 70 wins in the last three seasons are a program record by a fairly wide margin and you may remember they won at Miami by 28 points this season). Neubauer is also a John Beilein disciple, having coached under him at both Richmond and West Virginia before taking the job at Eastern Kentucky. He is still relatively young at 44, and should come with a distinct style of play.

Like Beilein, Neubaeur’s teams at Eastern Kentucky have played relatively methodically but shot the ball extremely well (in nine of his 10 seasons at the helm, EKU was in the top 100 in eFG% and three times in the top 10 nationally, including fourth last season). They also rarely turn the ball over, but don’t bother to chase offensive rebounds all that much (345th and 346th the last two seasons). They loved shooting from deep, twice in the last three campaigns Eastern Kentucky has ranked in the top three nationally in both free throw percentage and percentage of three-pointers attempted.

Defensively, somewhat unlike Michigan, they cause a ton of turnovers by mixing defenses (second behind West Virginia this season at defensive turnover rate), but their defensive eFG% leaves much to be desired and they give up a ton of three-pointers (have to give something to get something as they say, I guess).

Neubauer of course takes over for Tom Pecora, who was fired after five seasons in the Bronx with a record of 44-106. Neubauer’s style seems like it might work at a school like Fordham that probably needs to go outside the box after going 14-100 in their last seven seasons in the Atlantic 10 and has not been to an NCAA Tournament since 1992.

However, his hire has not been met with overall excitement for a few reasons. First, Neubauer has very few, if any, ties to New York City. He did play for Speedy Morris at La Salle, but is a Louisiana native who has never coached anywhere near the tri-state area, although his wife is originally from New Jersey.

He also clearly was not Fordham’s first choice. According to reports, Robert Morris’ Andy Toole turned down the position late last week, and other names like Albany’s Will Brown and Yale’s James Jones might have done the same.

Finally, while Pecora struggled, things did seem to be on an upturn toward the end of this season, and the Rams looked ready to return almost all their contributors, including Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year Eric Paschall. However, Neubauer’s style and the current Fordham roster do not appear to be a good fit on the surface. The Rams played a relatively fast pace and turned the ball over a ton (331st) and really struggled shooting from behind the arc (329th), while one of their biggest strengths was offensive rebounding. Paschall has not officially left yet, but reports have him looking at Villanova and Providence, and it seems unlikely a hire like Neubauer will keep him at Fordham.

So Neubauer and Fordham immediately have a difficult choice, to gut the current roster which looked quite promising, or try to put the old square peg into the round hole until Neubauer can mold the team the way he likes. And in the Atlantic-10, that molding could be especially painful, especially for a fan base (and alumni base) that has waited a long time and saw at least some progress a year ago.

However, with some patience, Neubauer could do what Bill Carmody did at Northwestern, or even what Beilein did at some of his stops before Michigan, turn a hapless program into a respected one.

7 thoughts on “Fordham Finally Has Coach, And It’s EKU’s Jeff Neubauer

  1. Lack of an A-10 caliber PG hurt Pecora’s teams as 2/3 or 3/4 games were the same story…..way too many turnovers or well less than effective offense. The Jay Wright 4 out 1 in offense was beyond a very good 2-guard (Brandon Frazier) reach. He was spent both physically and mentally spent against the better teams. Change of Mandell Thomas to PG was first time in 5 Pecora seasons where team had some inside threat, some outside threat and some drive to basket threat.

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  2. Pecora had two problems. First an inability to consistently recruit A10 talent and the resulting wholesale turnover at the end of seasons. Fay 1, Fay 2, Short, Samuell, McMillan, the list goes on and on. Second, an inability to make in game adjustments. Too many games saw Fordham leading or close at the half only to be outsmarted in the second. Oh, and those excruciating last minute losses with a team that showed promise. But that’s all water under the bridge and irrelevant with the new hire.

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  3. Neubauer is a coaching upgrade over Pecora, a significant one as far as X’s and O’s are concerned. The Rams will be better organized, and the product on the floor won’t be the farce that it was under Pecora.

    However, Neubauer is stepping into a real dumpster fire of a program, with little chance of real success in the A10. I hope he is being well paid for the pain, frustration and damage to his career that is about to ensue. Unless Fordham changes conferences, .500 or just above is their ceiling in the A10.

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    1. Neubauer is EXACTLY what the program needs. He took over an Eastern Ky program that needed rebuilding and that is exactly what he did–successfully. He WILL turn Fordham around and they will not be a bottom feeder in the A-10. Let him get his players and his style implemented and the rest will take care of itself.

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      1. Love your optimism, but there are very few programs in D1 with the decades of losing and the structural problems that Fordham has. In D1 the Fordham program is the equivalent of a 4th world country. If Fordham changes conferences they have a real chance to be competitive, but its never going to happen in the A10, sorry.

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  4. For jeff to be successful in New York, he needs a New York recruiter. He needs to keep Tom Parrotta on staff and by doing so may have a chance of keeping the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the year.

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