“It’s a Great Day to be Anyone”


Keith Urgo led Fordham Men’s Basketball to a 25 win season this year. But how did he get to this point? (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

The college year had come to a close. Highlighted by his new friends, fresh classes, questionable choices and an ongoing quest to play NCAA basketball, things were comfortably numb for one Fairfield University freshman. 

In between his first and second year as a stag, this same student was involved in a vicious car accident with a Jeep Wrangler that required him to undergo reconstructive facial surgery, and recover at a grueling pace. While many offered their sympathy, one of the young man’s eight  brothers came bearing a reality-check instead, and implored him to accept the gut-punch life had viciously landed by changing for the better.

That Fairfield freshman who faced a definite fork in the road all those years ago was Fordham Men’s Basketball head coach Keith Urgo.

Long before Urgo joined Fordham’s staff as an assistant coach during the 2021-22 season, led the 2022-23 Rams to a sizzling 25-8 record as the leading man, rejuvenated a fan base that had been longing for competitive basketball or inked an extension that will solidify his place in the Bronx until at least 2028, he was an authentic hustler who understood the importance of both gratitude and resilience on and off the court.

Speaking with Urgo is an uplifting experience. From the moment one either sees the Rams’ head coach in person or hops on a phone call with him, they’re immediately greeted with warmth, and  reminded that life is a challenge meant to be embraced. There is a chipperness in Urgo’s voice that is contagious, and a sincerity in his mannerisms that is palpable.

Even while discussing what this particular profile hoped to accomplish, Urgo expressed sincere gratitude that someone wanted to tell his story, and said he’d be willing to help in any way possible. 

WFUV’s Thomas Aiello occasionally traveled with the team last season as a radio play-by-play voice. He recalled a trip to George Mason that included a moment of inclusivity that is not common within the tight-knit world of NCAA basketball. During a team dinner, Urgo encouraged everyone in the room to link arms and share a moment of reflection and prayer. Surprised by the timing, Aiello wondered if he should stay during what seemed to be an intimate moment, but quickly realized that the room held just about every member of the traveling party.        

This sort of good will seems to stem directly from the coach’s upbringing. One of Don and Carolyn Urgo’s 10 children, he described a childhood just as welcoming as the greetings he so generously doles out. Urgo and his siblings grew up in Potomac, Md. and lived in a house where all were welcome. He recalled family members and friends staying over for extended periods of time. Additionally, Urgo mentioned that he and his siblings were extremely competitive. Perhaps it was that competitiveness that propelled him towards becoming a two sport athlete at Fairfield. He departed for Connecticut in line to play lacrosse with dreams of also gracing the hardwood as a collegiate hooper. 

An academically and socially tumultuous first two years at school, combined with the harrowing accident, altered Urgo’s path and forced him to take a more active role in crafting his own future. When all was said and done, the DMV area native played three seasons of lacrosse and spent two years on the hardwood.

Between his fourth and fifth year as a stag, Urgo helped develop a non-profit organization known as “Playing for Peace, Inc.” The group aims to use basketball as a means of conflict resolution, and is a major reason why he pursued a career as a college coach. Spending time in Northern Ireland and South Africa with what he referred to as a basketball “peace corps” allowed him to experience the positive impact the sport could have.

After spending time as a coach at Gonzaga College High School, Urgo joined Jay Wright’s Villanova staff as a video coordinator in 2007, and dashed his way up the ladder. By the end of his Wildcat tenure, he’d also served as both the president of basketball operations and an assistant coach en-route to five NCAA Tournament bids and a 2009 Final Four appearance. 

Urgo parlayed his success at Villanova into a job as an assistant coach at Penn State. During his almost decade-long tenure at State College, Urgo learned the ins and outs of constructing an elite program. He emphasized he did everything from marketing to student engagement in an effort to make former Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers run a crisp operation from the inside out. Even in what some may label a “white collared” profession, Urgo worked with the sort of “blue collared” resilience that is willing to take on new challenges. 

Also key to Urgo’s duties was an understanding that it takes a strong community to achieve basketball nirvana. According to the 2023 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, such an environment is not formed in the blink of an eye, and is instead the product of hard work and sincere gratitude. When he began his first season at Fordham in 2021, under head coach, Kyle Neptune, Urgo sensed a lack of “Ram pride” that extended itself beyond the players and into an uninterested fan base.

While he may have been born and raised in the DMV area, both of Urgo’s parents are from Brooklyn. The family spent a great deal of time in New York, and many of its members are Jesuit-educated in one fashion or another. Urgo’s father, Don, attended Fordham and was a graduate of both Fordham College (‘59) and Fordham Law School (‘62). Urgo said he believes that Fordham is “woven into the fabric of New York City,” a place that he referred to as the “greatest city in the world.” When he arrived in the Bronx, he had every intention of using what he had learned at Villanova and State College to help restore Fordham’s pride.

The Rams enjoyed a 16-16 record under Neptune, and Urgo noticed that students and alumni were excited to see a team that was slowly but surely improving. But, during April 2022, Kyle Neptune departed Rose Hill to take over for legendary Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who was set to retire.

Just as he did as a college student who had just lived through a devastating car accident, Urgo mulled what his future might hold. When asked about this period of time, he confesses that he and his wife, Kristy discussed a life that did not include basketball. He acknowledged his main priority was, and still is, taking care of his four children: Ty, Cody, Samantha and Sydney Rae. Urgo knew that if he did not receive a head coaching job, his hoops journey may be over. 

Weeks later, the blue-collared sideline savant received an official offer to become the Fordham Rams’ new head coach. The rest is history. Last season’s Rams tied for the second highest win total in program history, behind only the legendary 26-3 squad of 1970-71. Veteran players such as graduate student Darius Quisenberry and juniors Antrell Charlton and Kyle Rose blended with new additions like freshman Will Richardson as the unit fought their way to an appearance in the A-10 semifinals. 

Along with A-10 Coach of the Year honors, Urgo also won the Joe B. Hall Award as the top first-year head coach in the nation. Assistant coach Dave Paulsen and director of player development Henry Lowe parlayed the team’s success into new personal opportunities. Paulsen penned a deal to become the newest head coach at the College of the Holy Cross, while Lowe will take on an assistant role under Urgo next season.    

As far as student outreach was concerned, the 2022-23 campaign was a massive victory. Home games at the Rose Hill Gym were regularly packed, and the “shirtless herd” kept opposing teams on their toes. Social media unifiers, such as Fordham Barstool, shouted out Ram wins and showed support after losses.

It is not hyperbole to say that Urgo transformed the program, but he refuses to take a victory lap. When asked about his success, the sage coach chose to laud players, members of the coaching staff, students and school officials for their role in the turnaround.

Coach Keith Urgo has become known for saying “It’s a great day to be a Ram!” with gusto. Fordham students love the statement, and use it as a boastful rallying cry. However, the seemingly “rah-rah” catchphrase bears a much deeper meaning for the man who coined it.

“It’s a great day to be anyone,” said Urgo.

No matter who you are or where you come from, Urgo said he believes that it is key to be grateful for all life has given you. It would seem that this attitude of gratitude began with a young man struggling to find his way, and has helped him evolve into one of the nation’s most passionate coaches.