Fordham coach Tom Pecora is confident Rams are improving

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora looks on during

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora looks on during a game against St. John's. (Dec. 8, 2012) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

Just like anyone else who commutes to the city from Long Island, Tom Pecora realizes that timing is everything.

"If I leave at 6, I'm there at 6:30. If I leave at 9, I'm there at 9:30," he said. "And if I leave at 7, I'm there at 9."

There are times when trying to rebuild a major college basketball team can feel like sitting in rush- hour traffic: You just have to be patient and make progress inch by inch. The important thing for Pecora is that, in his third year as basketball coach at Fordham, he still believes he is in the correct lane.

No buyer's remorse, no second-guessing his own decision, from the Williston Park resident about having left Hofstra after 16 years, the last nine of them as head coach. He is happy that he never had to move and that his kids didn't have to change schools. He is determined to be positive about where he and Fordham are headed, even though the Rams are 20-56 on his watch, and were 1-8 this season before an inspired 63-60 win over Princeton Saturday at Barclays Center.

In fact, he saw the unlikely victory -- Fordham was down by 10 with three minutes to go -- as evidence that things are bound to get better.

"I know I'm crazy, and this is uncharted territory for me. I said this to my team and my assistants the other day, I've never been 1-8. But it's crazy, we're not a bad 2-8 team. I think we're getting better every minute," he said.

"There are times when I'm frustrated, but I have a great staff. They see the good things every day. We watch practice together on tape after the practice is over and we talk about all of the good things that are coming and who's coming on."

On his way to and from campus in the Bronx every day, Pecora has consoled himself with the reasons for the 1-8 start: The Rams have had only one home game and they played six games without their top frontcourt man, Chris Gaston (knee injury).

Gaston returned Saturday and made a difference with his 16 points, five rebounds and veteran presence. But he is a senior and there is no guarantee that Fordham will fill his void by next season to contend in the Atlantic 10. What's more, few teams will agree to play in Fordham's stately but tiny Rose Hill Gym, so the Rams never will be able to have an easy non-conference schedule.

Still, it is Pecora's job to be optimistic. It is also his nature. He cites the fact that he has four freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and six sophomores on the roster. He is upbeat about three recruits who already have signed: 6-10 forward Manny Suarez of New Jersey, 6-7 forward Denzel Gregg of Syracuse and 6-5 guard Jake Fay of Lynn, Mass.

The latter was a high school teammate of current Fordham center Ryan Canty, who is improving by the minute. For instance, he missed a dunk and a layup in the second half Saturday but scored on Branden Frazier's feed with eight seconds left to put the Rams ahead to stay at 61-60.

Before that, Frazier had scored all of Fordham's previous 13 points, shrugging off a 1-for-10 start from the floor. The junior guard from Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin saw that as a sign that the Rams never give up. "I can tell you that last four minutes that we played so hard, that came from practice all week," Frazier said. "That all just came from will."

Pecora said he sees that kind of willpower every day. So he insists that his team is just like anyone who has to endure bumper-to-bumper angst. They are sure they're eventually going to get where they're going.

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