“He’s more ready to be a head coach than most young guys, X’s and O’s-wise, and I think he’s got great character, great leadership skills,” Wright told the New York Post in March. “I think he’s going to be an outstanding head coach.”
Here are five other things to know about Neptune as he prepares for his first season at Rose Hill.
His New York City Roots Run Deep
Neptune grew up in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and his parents still live there. He attended Brooklyn Friends School, where he played on the 2003 state championship team. He even played in the Rose Hill Gym during his Amateur Athletic Union days. He hopes his New York connections, and those of the staff he’s building, will have a positive impact at Fordham.
“I am very proud about being from New York,” he says. “And our staff right now, most of our guys have New York City roots, and we want that reflected on our team. But not just New York City, the entire East Coast—I think we want to be aggressive in [recruiting players from]those regions.”
He Could Have Seen Himself as a Fordham Student
Although he played basketball at Lehigh University, where he earned a degree in journalism and was a member of the 2004 NCAA Tournament team, Neptune believes he would have thrived as a student-athlete at Fordham. That’s part of what attracted him to the coaching job.
“It’s the type of school I would have liked to go to,” Neptune says, citing “the mission, the high-level education, the location,” and the quality of play in the “very competitive” Atlantic 10 conference. After “interviewing for the job and seeing how dynamic Ed Kull, the athletics director, is,” Neptune adds, he was convinced Rose Hill is where he wants to be.
He Wants the Rams to Play a Tough Style
While part of Neptune’s job will be to recruit top talent, once players arrive on campus, he wants to instill a team culture centered on toughness and work ethic. Noting the qualities he saw in former Villanova players now thriving in the NBA, Neptune says, “The things that separate you are how hard you’re gonna work, your habits, and your character.” And in a conversation with A10Talk, Neptune said he wants the Rams “to be known as a tough, nasty bunch. I want to be a team that no one wants to play against.”
He Knows How to Connect with Young People
Neptune is known for forming strong relationships with players and for demonstrating, as Jay Wright once put it, “all the qualities you want to see in a young coach—commitment, passion, and the ability to communicate with young people.” He has stayed in touch with former Villanova players in the NBA, including Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Eric Paschall, who began his college playing career at Fordham. Those relationships tend to complicate his NBA rooting interests, though. “It’s kind of hard to root for any team when you know someone on the other team and you’re so invested in their success,” he says.
He’s Impressed by the Passion of Fordham Fans and the Alumni Network
“You walk around the campus and you just feel the energy and the passion from the people,” Neptune says. “I knew there was a wide-ranging, proud alumni base, but moving around the city and in meetings with people, I’ll wear my Fordham stuff, and people notice. It’s been exciting to see how engaged people are.”
That engagement—and excitement about Neptune’s hiring—was on display in a Fordham athletics welcome video featuring alumni sportscasters Jack Armstrong, FCLC ’86, GSAS ’88; Chris Carrino, GABELLI ’92; Jack Curry, FCRH ’86; Spero Dedes, FCRH ’01; Michael Kay, FCRH ’82; Ryan Ruocco, FCRH ’08; and Mike Yam, FCRH ’03. Neptune would like to see that enthusiasm turn the Rose Hill Gym into a place that opponents don’t want to visit. “I hope the fans are really hard on the other team,” he says. “We want it to be packed every night.”