FDU Director of Athletics Bradford Hurlbut announced Friday the appointment of Stephanie Gaitley as the eighth head coach of the Knights’ women’s basketball program. Gaitley arrives to the banks of the Hackensack following a year coaching high school basketball at Ocean City, her alma mater, after recently serving as the head coach at Fordham for 11 seasons.
A 1983 Villanova graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Gaitley owns a 684-393 record in 36 seasons of collegiate coaching with her teams combining for 20 postseason appearances between the NCAA tournament and WNIT.
“It is with great pride that I announce the hiring of Stephanie Gaitley to lead our women’s basketball program,” said Hurlbut. “I know her championship experience will enhance our program and for her players to continue to grow the winning culture we have become accustomed to at FDU.
“We also celebrate the fact that Stephanie’s sister, Coco, was a student-athlete on our Metropolitan Campus and are thrilled to reunite their family’s FDU ties.”
“Today is a great day for FDU and our women’s basketball program,” commented Interim Present Dr. Michael Avaltroni. “I am pleased to welcome Stephanie and her family back to FDU. Her familiarity with our institution and the NEC will help the program immensely as we transition into the next chapter of Knights women’s basketball.”
“I am as excited today as I was when I got my first head coaching job,” said Gaitley. “I have gotten to know Brad over the past few years and he was always so passionate about his vision for FDU. Everyone in the country saw that in the men’s run in the tournament. When I visited, I felt a family atmosphere immediately. Ang [former head coach Angelika Szumilo] did a terrific job and we hope to build on her success. Basketball has taken me all over the world, but now FDU feels like home. I am excited about the future of FDU basketball and can’t wait to get started!”
Gaitley inherits a program from three-time former assistant Angelika Szumilo that has taken home each of the last two NEC Regular Season titles, resulting in two WNIT appearances. FDU finished first in the nation in three-point percentage defense in 2022-23.
Born and raised in Ocean City, N.J., Gaitley began her coaching career at Richmond leading the Spiders to two CAA titles, two NCAA tournament bids and one appearance in the WNIT. After six seasons at Richmond, the 1982 CoSIDA Academic All-American moved on to Saint Joseph’s.
In Philadelphia, Gaitley won nearly 70 percent of her team’s games with a 10-year record of 196-88 among collecting two A-10 championships, five trips to the Big Dance and an appearance in the WNIT, her second.
Gaitley moved on from the Hawks and arrived in the NEC in 2002 as the head coach of LIU-Brooklyn, a position she held for six campaigns. While at LIU, Gaitley transformed the program into 20-game winners in her last two seasons.
Staying in the NEC, the Jersey native returned home, taking over Monmouth in 2008, leading the Hawks to the 2011 NEC title game as the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. A WNIT participant in her final season at Monmouth, Gaitley finished with a 57-37 record in West Long Branch to cap three seasons.
Moving back to the A-10, Gaitley was named Fordham’s head coach in time for the 2011-12 season, transforming the Rams into a perennial conference contender. The Rams tore through the A-10 during her tenure, going from no postseason trips in the 10 seasons prior to her taking over, to nine postseason trips. Winners of 108 conference games over her 11 campaigns on Rose Hill, Gaitley twice led the Rams to A-10 titles resulting in two tickets to the NCAA tournament. Additionally, she led Fordham to seven WNIT appearances, advancing to the third round twice and earning seven 20-plus win campaigns.
On the national stage, Gaitley is one of the winningest coaches in NCAA women’s basketball with a career record of 684-393 (.635), good for 27th all-time. When factored into active head coach rankings, Gaitley sits 12th, ahead of 2023 national champion LSU’s Kim Mulkey.
The 2006-07 NEC Coach of the Year while at LIU-Brooklyn, Gaitley compiled a nine-season NEC record of 99-64 while her Blackbird and Hawk sides combined for over 150 victories over that stretch. Celebrating the individual successes of student-athletes under her tutelage, Anna DeWolf and Bre Cavanaugh were both named A-10 Player of the Year to go along with four WBCA All-America Honorable mentions, one Defensive Player of the Year (G’mrice Davis), among 26 All-A-10 selections.
Boasting a defensive mentality, the three-time Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association (MBWA) Coach of the Year’s teams have ranked among the top in Division I in scoring defense, finishing as high as ninth in 2019 with her team holding opponents to just 54.4 points per game.
Gaitley has long had family ties to FDU as her sister, Coco Vanderslice, competed in the Burgundy and Blue from 1982-85.
Uniquely, Gaitley and her two sisters, Courtney and Coco, hold a piece of NCAA history. During the 1981-82 season, Stephanie and Courtney, while playing for Villanova, played against Coco, marking the first time in NCAA history that three sisters competed in the same game.
Also having experience with the United States national team, Gaitley served as an assistant in 2000 at the Jones Cup, helping lead the team to a gold medal win. She also served as head coach of the West Team at the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival, winning a silver medal.
Gaitley and her husband, Frank, have three adult sons, Dutch, D.C. and Jordan “Coop” Gaitley. She also received a Master of Arts in Secondary Education at Villanova in 1983. The school inducted her into its Hall of Fame in 1993, three years after she was enshrined into the prestigious Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.
A member of the Ocean City High School girl’s basketball team that went 100-0 in league play from 1974-78 under head coach Pat Dougherty, Gaitley learned early on in her basketball career about success. She is a member of the South Jersey and Ocean City High School Halls of Fame.
The Knights’ newest leader will be introduced at a press conference held at Stratis Arena inside the Rothman Center on Monday, April 24 at 3:45 p.m. The event will be streamed live on NEC Front Row.