Bronx – It was a matter of time and expected, but not five games into the season. The Fordham University men’s basketball program is once again looking for a new head coach after it was announced Thursday that Dereck Whittenburg was let go. Fordham is once again headed for another dismal season with a 1-4 record and has yet to start their Atlantic-10 conference part of the schedule.
“This was a difficult decision, but we felt that we needed a new direction at this time,” said Fordham Director of Athletics Frank McLaughlin in a statement. He added, “It’s a priority of the University to have a successful program in the competitive Atlantic-10 Conference.”
Last season the Rams finished 3-25 overall, finishing 14th in the conference with a 1-15 mark and failed to make the post season tournament for the first time. That led to rumors and speculation that Whittenburg would be dismissed but he returned for a seventh season and recently signed a contract extension for another three years.
Whittenburg was hired in 2004 after leading Wagner College to their first NCAA Tournament the year before. He could not be reached for comment but sources said Whittenburg was disappointed and would release a statement soon. Others on the Fordham campus, including alumni who are major supporters of the basketball program up at Rose Hill reportedly had been looking for Whittenburg to be dismissed.
He complied a 69-112 record with the Rams and is 136-162 overall as a head coach in eleven seasons. Assistant coach Jared Grasso will take over as interim head coach the remainder of the season. He will guide the Rams for their next game Saturday evening up at Rose Hill when Fordham takes on Bowling Green State University.
As the Rams struggled last season there were reports that Whittenburg got into clashes with numerous players, including one of his leading scorers Chris Bethel. Regardless Fordham has difficulty when it comes to stability retaining a head coach. Whittenburg succeeded Bob Hill the highly touted NBA coach who signed a 10-year million dollar contract.
After Fordham defeated Sacred Heart up at Rose Hill two weeks ago, their first win this season. Whittenburg commented a bit about the dismal campaign last year. “We really did not have a leader and there was too much outside influences that disrupted the kids,” he said. There were references to outside coaches who knew his players, even some family members that may have caused some dissension by being too influential.
Alumni assisted in bringing Hill to Rose Hill paying for some of his salary, and Hill after a mutual decision to leave is still being paid. McLaughlin said an immediate search is on as to who would guide the Rams in the future and Grasso is under consideration.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com