Jeff Neubauer says he likes a challenge as he takes on one no coach has been able to conquer for nearly a decade.
Neubauer, who spent 10 successful years at Eastern Kentucky, was introduced as Fordham University’s new men’s basketball coach at an on campus press conference on March 31.
“This is certainly a challenge,” he said. “I’m taking over a program the has really struggled and it needs a new vibrancy. It needs new life. So that is what I am doing here.”
The 44-year old Neubauer loved the chance to coach and live in New York City. He adamantly stressed that changing the culture of the program doesn’t start with a five-year plan and future recruits, but next season with the current Rams roster. He held a workout with the team the day before being introduced. He was impressed with their character and abilities.
“There is no question that the future of Fordham basketball is going to begin with these guy in this room,” Neubauer said.
One player who wasn’t at the press conference was star freshman Eric Paschall. The reigning Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year was granted a partial release from the school after former coach Tom Pecora was fired on March 18. He was on a scheduled visit to Villanova, but Neubauer met with him on Monday and had a long and productive talk.
“Eric was really refreshing,” Neubauer said. “He was great.”
Neubauer, who grew up in Louisiana, brings an impressive resume with him to Rose Hill. The Eastern Kentucky he recorded five 20-win seasons, including the last three. The Colonials went 22-12 last year. Neubauer also led Eastern Kentucky to two NCAA tournament appearances. In 2014, the Colonials nearly upset second-seeded Kansas in the first round.
“We got in the gym and we all got comfortable with each other,” sophomore guard Jon Severe said. “I liked what he was doing.”
Neubauer’s style centers on shooting the three well on offense and suffocating man-to-man defense in the half court. He hopes to navigate the New York City recruiting landscape with the right staff, by being himself and being accessible to coaches.
Fordham Athletic Director Dave Roach said he wanted find Pecora’s replacement as quickly as possible to not miss out on the school’s target and to not leave the players waiting for its new leader.
He said he was looking for someone with the X-factor and was impressed with the coaches Neubauer worked with during his career. He played for Speedy Morris at LaSalle and was an assistant under current Michigan coach John Beilein for five years at West Virginia.
“As soon as I met Jeff I knew was had the ideal person for Fordham,” Roache said.
Neubauer takes over a program that went 44-106 in five years under Pecora. The Rams went 10-21 in his final season and never won more than 10 games and four in the Atlantic 10 during his five-year tenure. That just wasn’t enough for Roach, despite a strong finish to this year.
“It was a lack of success,” he said. “I believe that we can have success. We should be successful and that’s what we want to do.”
Roach and Neubauer believe Rams fans shouldn’t have to wait for a winning team with the players they have in place.
“He said it too. The talent is here. We want to be good right away,” Roach said. “I think given who is here that’s doable.”