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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Conference title or not, Tom Pecora has left his mark on Quinnipiac men’s basketball

Quinnipiac’s head coach on handling NIL, contemplating retirement and being just two wins away from March Madness
Tyler Rinko
Quinnipiac head coach Tom Pecora speaks to his team during the Bobcats’ quarterfinals win over Canisius on March 13.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — He’s the MAAC’s Coach of the Year for a reason. 

Quinnipiac men’s basketball head coach Tom Pecora has stepped into the role masterfully in his first season at the helm. Whether it’s the 24 victories thus far or being just two wins away from the Bobcats’ first trip to the NCAA Tournament, Pecora has earned the right to call this team his own. 

And that mutual respect —  which earned him a four-year contract extension in February — trickles down to the Bobcats’ captains. 

“Coach P, he’s the best,” graduate student guard Savion Lewis said Wednesday. “We want to win this whole thing for him.”

In 2024, he WAS the best. He was named the conference’s top coach for the first time in program history and has changed the trajectory of this team. Quinnipiac has never hoisted a MAAC title, and the veteran Pecora has never made March Madness in his 30+ years coaching college basketball. Yet the Bobcats’ head man doesn’t want the recognition to be on him.

“A lot of it has to do with the kind of men you’re coaching,” Pecora said Wednesday. “I give (my coaching staff) a lot of responsibility and these guys want to please them, you can see it in their eyes.”

Those men include the aforementioned Lewis, who was named to the MAAC All-Second Team, along with graduate student guard Matt Balanc (MAAC All-First Team) and sophomore forward Amarri Tice (MAAC All-Third Team). Add in senior forward Paul Otieno and the MAAC’s top-seeded team has a dominant starting lineup that has already made noise in Atlantic City. 

“I actually didn’t expect me to have this great of a year, but that’s what our work does,” Tice said on March 7. “Our work is showing, not just on the court, but even as a team … Job’s not finished and I’m just happy to be here.”

In a world of the transfer portal and Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) dominating the college basketball landscape, the grizzled coach has stayed even keel with how he runs his team. He won’t instill an NIL program at Quinnipiac and he won’t try to stop players from chasing the money elsewhere. 

What Pecora will do is find what he considers high-quality people to join the men’s basketball program. And that’s no small feat, considering a lot of the bigger names in the sport are looking to improve their marketability at a larger school.

“No matter the landscape is with NIL and all this nonsense that’s going on, we’re gonna get quality young men to come here and play basketball because you get a great education,” Pecora said on March 7. “It’s a really good school on just about every level.”

Quinnipiac was able to carry over its regular season success into the postseason. The Bobcats knocked out No. 9 Canisius on Wednesday in one of their most dominant performances of the year. The game — and week leading up to it — was dedicated to Otieno, who the team felt was snubbed of an all-conference team.

“It means a lot to me,” Otieno said Wednesday. 

The trust and appreciation are readily apparent, even in a postgame press conference. Though Pecora doesn’t want to touch NIL, he isn’t afraid of tossing his wallet to Lewis in their media availability. It got a laugh from Lewis, and even a chuckle from the mild-mannered Otieno.

It’s the little things that a 66-year-old coach is able to do to connect with a group of a dozen 20-year-olds.

Whether the Bobcats advance to this weekend’s conference championship (tip-off against Saint Peter’s is set for 6:30 p.m.) or not, the program is safe in the hands of Pecora. 

“I love this place,” Pecora said. “The support I’ve gotten this year … Everyone in this building. There’s so many good people here, it would be hard not to have success.”

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About the Contributors
Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor
Tyler Rinko
Tyler Rinko, Associate Photography Editor

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