By Robert Cole
With Fordham’s 74-43 win over UMass on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx, Coach Stephanie Gaitley became the school’s all-time winningest coach capturing her 116th victory, surpassing the mark set by Kathy Mosolino (1974-80).
When asked how it felt to be the school’s winningst coach, Gaitley said it was “kind of anticlimactic,” stating, “You forget about these types of things when you are getting ready for a conference game, then when it is over and everybody around you starts to celebrate, it hits you and you realized that this is the game.”
Coach Gaitley, reflecting on reaching this mark in her career at Fordham, recognized that she has received a great deal of support from Dave Roche, the Fordham Athletic Director, and his staff. She also credited her success to her coaching staff and the great players she has worked with during her time at Fordham.
During her five seasons at Fordham, Coach Gaitley has changed the culture around the Fordham women’s basketball program. After going nearly two decades without a winning record, the Rams are now competitive on the national level, compiling three consecutive 20-win seasons and capturing the team’s first-ever Atlantic 10 Championship in 2013-14.
If you want to know the keys to her success, you need not spend more than five minutes listening to the coach and it will become abundantly clear that it’s the love she has for the players. Yes, she is an excellent basketball coach, designing strategies to help her team succeed, and she is a motivator, challenging her players to exceed above their expectations.
However, it is her relationships with her players that’s primary to her coaching success.
“My favorite part of coaching is the relationship with the players, seeing them grow both on and off the court, reconnecting with them later on in life to laugh and joke about things that made you [angry] back in the day,” Gaitley said.
Her focus on relationships is evident in the recruitment of quality people to play on the team, often recruiting a person that she can challenge to buy into the team concept. Senior guard Hannah Missry, after being challenged recently by Gaitley to set leadership above how well she was playing, texted the coach to say that she was “all in.”
Hannah showed leadership against UMass and had a breakout game, scoring 17 points and shooting 5-7 from the three-point arc after being held without a field goal in three of her last four games.
Realized that history could be made, they played an outstanding game on both sides of the court, with many players having offensive breakout games.
“We have been struggling offensively lately,” Gaitley said. “We have not been able to get going offensively, so I think we picked the one game where it was all going to the right place at the right time.”
Fordham will seek to help Coach Gaitley build on her new record as they continue A-10 play this Tuesday February 14 at Davidson.
Robert Cole is a contributing sports writer and photo journalist.