Fordham athletic director David Roach didn't mince words when discussing his expectations for the 2014-15 basketball season.
Roach told Bleacher Report that the time to win is now.
"Obviously it’s been a work in progress, and I think when we look at the upcoming season, we definitely have the feeling it’s the most talented group that Coach (Tom) Pecora’s had since he got here," Roach said.
"I think we’re on the verge of turning the corner. We’re kind of driving down the road and the corner’s coming.
"When you look at the combination of who we have returning and the incoming class, there’s some really good pieces there. I’m pretty optimistic about what can happen this year."
So is Pecora, who's said repeatedly that this year's team will be the most talented one he's had since he arrived at Fordham in 2010.
To that end, Roach didn't say anything different from what Pecora has been saying all along.
"With this being Tom’s fifth year, there are a lot more pieces there and a more talented and experienced group than we’ve had since he’s been here," Roach said.
"I think the pieces are there," he added. "You’ve had a coaching staff in place for five years. And there’s more talent.
"Let’s turn the corner."
Easier said than done, of course, but there's reason to believe that this could finally be the year it happens.
The Fordham roster has undergone a major overhaul, a good thing considering the Rams have won 34 games in Pecora's first four years.
There are only two seniors—Ryan Canty and Bryan Smith, two juniors—Ryan Rhoomes and Mandell Thomas and one sophomore—Jon Severe.
Everyone else is a freshman: Eric Paschall, Nemanja Zarkovic, Antwoine Anderson, Manny Suarez, Christian Sengfelder, Dekeba Battee-Aston and Zaire Thompson. They could all step right in and play a big role.
The need to upgrade the roster was necessary and breathed life into the program.
Despite seven straight losing campaigns, 85 losses the past four years and finishing below .500 in 17 of the last 19 seasons, the Fordham coaching staff has still been able to lure talent to Rose Hill.
"They do a great job building relationships," Roach said about Pecora and his staff. "Parents and kids trust our coaching staff and trust Fordham.
"We have a good track record of kids doing well academically. They’re going to be supported and have every opportunity to reach their full potential academically and athletically."
Now it's a matter of putting it all together on the court. No one wants to do that more than Pecora, who four years ago made the decision to leave Hofstra and come to Fordham.
He could have easily stayed in Hempstead, New York, and waited for another opportunity. It would only have been a matter of time. Instead, he believed he could turn the Fordham program around. He still does.
"You find with most coaches that they’re harder on themselves than anybody else is," Roach said. "No one wants to be more successful and see this thing going than Tom Pecora."
Roach believes that should happen in 2014. Like Pecora has done repeatedly, he talked a lot about year five, about talent and about taking the next step. He spoke honestly about what he expects going forward.
"I think they feel we’ve been headed in the right direction, but it is time to turn the corner and have some results," Roach said.
"When I look at the whole thing and who’s here, it should be a year we make a move up the A-10 ladder. Some teams have lost some really key players, and in some cases a lot of them. It might be a good time for us to be more competitive and make a move, have some nice wins in the league and make some noise in the tournament."
For Roach, it's more than just the talent and the passing of another year. What he saw last year also gives him hope.
Despite the fact that the Rams lost their last eight regular-season games, they nearly pulled off upsets against La Salle and George Washington in the final week of the season, then beat George Mason in the play-in game of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Pecora said his team didn't quit, and he's right. Roach saw the same thing.
"When you look at 2013-14 versus 2012-13, we were certainly more competitive especially toward the back half of the season," he said. "We were more competitive at home and played some good games on the road. While the record didn’t indicate it, we were in more games and we were more competitive.
"We showed flashes of what could really happen if we put it together."
While there's always give and take between an athletic director and coach, Roach, who took over as AD in 2012, insisted his relationship with Pecora is good.
"No matter what the sport is and no matter who the coach is, I don’t micromanage and I don’t delve into 'are we playing this kind of defense.'" he said. "I observe things on a daily basis. I see where the program is on a daily basis. You look at the whole piece of the pie."
"If I’ve got to worry about X's and O's, or the technique or technical aspect of any sport, then that’s not right," he added.
"I don’t go to a basketball game or a football game and say 'I wonder what we’re trying to do on offense.'"
He also said Pecora won't be judged this year solely on wins and losses.
"I never put numbers on it," he said, "but we want to see significant improvement. "I can’t put a number on it, but I can feel it."
And if this thing were to ever get going, Roach thinks it would be special.
"It would be fantastic. It would be unbelievable," he said. "People would be coming out of the woodwork to support it.
"People have been dying for it for years. If you get it going people will support it and be behind it and really be excited.
"It would mean a lot."
Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.
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