Fordham University’s legendary Rose Hill Gymnasium—the oldest NCAA Division I basketball arena still in use— has been labeled many things, from a well-regarded rarity in the Atlantic 10, to one of basketball’s crown jewels.
But to Frank McLaughlin, FCRH ’69, a former Ram team captain and standout player, the court is simply known as “home.”
“Fordham to me has always been about family,” said McLaughlin, the University’s associate vice president of student affairs for athletic alumni relations and external affairs, and distinguished athletic director emeritus. “I’ve been fortunate to have had a long career in athletics here. I’ve seen a lot of great things happen [at Rose Hill]and shared in a lot of successes.”
To honor McLaughlin’s legacy, the Rose Hill Gym’s basketball court will be renamed the Frank McLaughlin Family Basketball Court as part of a $2.5 million fundraising campaign, which aims to herald a new chapter in Fordham’s athletics program. So far, more than $1.3 million has been raised to support the University’s efforts.
As McLaughlin’s career nears its half-century mark, he said he is especially excited for the future of the Rose Hill Gym, which will be transformed into a more fan-friendly basketball arena equipped with new spectator seating, a state-of-the-art wood surface, and an upper balcony with a hospitality suite. The prospective changes offer the most significant renovation to date for the 92-year-old, 3,200-seat gym, which has had several small-scale upgrades over the last 15 years.
“It provides our coaches with a better opportunity to attract outstanding student-athletes,” he said.
McLaughlin guided the Rams to the National Invitation Tournament in 1968 and 1969. The former hoops star also helped win a record-breaking 23 home games in two seasons, defeating Seton Hall, Syracuse, and Georgetown, among others. Later, he served as an assistant to famed basketball coach Richard “Digger” Phelps on the nationally ranked 1971 Fordham men’s team before serving as the University’s athletics director for 27 years. In 2016, he was inducted into the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
“Frank truly bleeds maroon,” said Darlene Luccio Jordan, FCRH ’89, a member of the Board of Trustees. “He has been a force both on Fordham’s basketball court and then courtside for more than four decades. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to Frank, [his wife]Susan, and their girls than to name the Rose Hill Gym’s basketball court in honor of his family.”
The McLaughlin family has been associated with the Rose Hill Gym since 1945. The son of a New York City police officer, McLaughlin grew up in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, where he said basketball was the premier sport in his family. His three brothers, Walter, FCRH ’53, Tommy, and Jackie graduated from Fordham Preparatory School on the Rose Hill campus—and they all played on the court.
The McLaughlin family connection continued at Fordham through McLaughlin’s daughters, Tara, GABELLI ’99, Heather, FCRH ’02, and Colleen, GABELLI ’05.
Throughout his career at Fordham, McLaughlin sought to create a supportive environment that would assist student-athletes in reaching their greatest potential on and off the court. He recruited first-rate coaches who understood that being a good athlete and a good student were not mutually exclusive.
“The student-athlete that goes to Fordham realizes that we want to be successful athletically, but it’s not a win at-all-costs attitude,” said McLaughlin. “They realize that the top priority for coming here is to receive an outstanding education, and then to compete at the highest level athletically.”
McLaughlin’s unique leadership and recruitment approach has had an impact on other institutions, too. When Phelps went on to coach at Notre Dame in the early ’70s, McLaughlin followed, helping to guide the top-ranking Fighting Irish to NCAA tournament bids. As the head men’s basketball coach at Harvard University from 1977 to 1985, his record ranked fifth in the school’s history of basketball wins.
“Coach McLaughlin is a tremendous coach and leader who has given back much to the game of basketball and to Fordham University, both of which mean so much to him,” said Tommy Amaker, Harvard’s head men’s basketball coach.
McLaughlin found his way back to his alma mater when he was named Fordham’s athletic director in 1985.
“Frank was never too busy to do something that was to Fordham’s advantage and interest,” said Edward H. Mank, a Massachusetts-based backer of the McLaughlin Family Court, who first met McLaughlin when he was a coach for the Harvard Crimson.
Advancing Fordham athletics
David Roach, who succeeded McLaughlin as director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation in 2012, said the renovations will be a draw for fans. “The new seating will also allow spectators to have an enjoyable game-viewing experience throughout the season.”
Current and former members of Fordham’s athletic community said the McLaughlin Family Court might usher in a new era of men and women’s basketball at Fordham.
“[Frank] has seen the ups and the downs. He’s seen Fordham ranked nationally,” said University of Colorado Associate Head Coach Jean Prioleau, FCRH ’92, former basketball player who helped the Rams make it to the NCAA Tournament in 1992. “He’s the sounding board for letting a new generation know that it can be done at Fordham because he has seen it happen.”