Keith Urgo waited a long time to take command of a college men’s basketball program and Monday night the culmination of his ride to get there was successful as his Fordham Rams opened their season with an 84-74 win over Dartmouth at Rose Hill.
This debut, though, was similar to last year for a first year men’s basketball coach at Fordham. Urgo was an assistant to Kyle Neptune, who also made his head coaching debut, but the former Fordham coach after one successful season took an opportunity to succeed Jay Wright at Villanova University.
So this was not foreign territory for Urgo, an associate to Neptune and part of the Rams 2021-22 season of resurgence and a 14 win improvement from the previous year. The 16-16 Rams won a second-round Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament game and reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2017.
A few weeks after the tournament a national search commenced to continue what Neptune started, the winning philosophy and familiarity with a roster and recruitment class. The logical choice was Keith Urgo.
“Feels great, it’s just an incredible proud moment for myself and my family, I’m excited,” Urgo said. “There’s nothing that makes me more proud. I’m thrilled but more thrilled for these guys. They’ve been working really hard since June 1st. Commitment to me, the staff.”
Monday night, family and friends greeted Urgo after a win that saw his Rams start off slow and later take command. Urgo was now in command as the Rams got their first win with goals to go past the A-10 quarterfinals in March at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
But the tournament is four months away. There are non-conference games ahead before A-10 play begins in late December, but a debut win is always a good feeling while also doing it at Rose Hill.
“Dartmouth came with a good game plan,” Urgo said. “I’m really happy the way our guys kept their composure. We were down 10-0, got out in transition. I’m very pleased with the overall effort but obvious there are a lot of things we have to clean up.”
The Rams got off to a bad start. Dartmouth is known for taking the three-pointer, and they did that well, but the Rams responded and tied the game with their ability to also net some buckets from long range.
Both teams combined and connected on 15-three-pointers in the first half but only scored four in the second.
The new coach saw it many times last year. Grad student guard Darius Quisenberry, who scored a team high 20-points tied the game with a three at the 15:07 mark. Then again, the familiarity of how Quisenberry can be a game changer and will be a major component of the Rams.
Photo courtesy of Robert Cole
Quisenberry was one of four Rams to score in double figures leading them to winning four of their last five season openers. And this debut for a new coach saw the Rams score their most points in a season opener since putting 95 on the board against Yale in 1972.
So this Fordham team has the ability to score a lot of points. Urgo has the ability to use a roster with depth and it showed in this first game. Georgia Tech transfer Khalid Moore responded with 18 points, one shy of his collegiate career high.
Regarding Moore, the coach said he came to Rose Hill with the experience of being on a team with elite players. He came to have that complete role and has built into that winning philosophy, the first game also showing signs of being an impact player for the Rams.
“Nice to know we can put that many points up,” Urgo said. But all of this will develop in the next few weeks as the Rams begin their goal to make an impact in the A-10 Conference. Once again, they were not one of those preseason teams high on the list as a conference favorite to win it all.
The predecessor also had a team last year that pulled the unexpected and the players bought into his philosophy. They all say that will be evident again up at Rose Hill. A debut for the new coach and a good test awaits the Rams Friday for their first road game against the tenth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks.
For now, though, Keith Lugo can enjoy that first win as the new head coach in command of the Fordham Rams.
Rich Mancuso [email protected] Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.