By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette — Tom Crowley reflected on one of his earliest basketball memories Thursday, a game he attended with his father at Philadelphia’s Palestra in the late 1960s, when Calvin Murphy scored a building record 52 points in a win over “a very good La Salle team.”
Standing in one of the many other buildings where Murphy holds the scoring record — and one that also hangs Murphy’s retired jersey number from the ceiling — Crowley was introduced as Niagara University’s new athletic director at the Gallagher Center.
“To think that now I am the athletic director at a place like Niagara brings a smile to my face, energizes my spirit and makes me say that I’m proud to be a Purple Eagle,” Crowley said.
Crowley went on to play basketball at Penn,
matching up on the floor against future Niagara basketball coach Joe Mihalich, who played at LaSalle, before getting into coaching. The Wharton School of Business graduate then spent much of the last three decades working as an athletics administrator, at Vermont, Temple, and most recently, Butler.
“I’m humbled to stand here before you as the new athletic director at Niagara,” Crowley told a small gathering of coaches, athletes, supporters and media. “I’d like to build on the wonderful Niagara traditions of providing meaningful and life-changing academic and athletic experiences for our student-athletes, building campus spirit and serving as a source of pride for the Niagara faithful.”
Crowley said becoming an athletic director is “a dream come true,” but he was selective about the openings he pursued.
“The culture makes it a good match,’’ he said. “Niagara always talks about an education that makes a difference. And for me, personally, I’m a first-generation college-educated person. I was the first in my family to college .... and that education really made a difference. That resonated with me about the job here. At all places people talk about values. We talked about it at Butler. You talk about it at IBM. But at a place like Niagara, when we get done talking about values, we then can look up to the sky and say those values come from God.
“That was appealing to me.”
The search committee found Crowley’s extensive experience appealing.
At Butler, Crowley was responsible for business operations, budget oversight and facilities, as well as game and event operations. He also played a key role in the development of the strategic plan for Butler’s athletic operations. During his two years at Temple, Crowley helped increase charitable giving to the athletic department through his work with the school’s Owl Club donor organization. At Vermont, he became the school’s first fully-dedicated fundraiser for athletics after spending one season as an assistant men’s basketball coach for the Catamounts.
“He’s got a wealth of experience and knowledge, both as an administrator and a coach,” men’s hockey coach Dave Burkholder said. “Those experiences are going to be invaluable for us. I think he’s going to be a tremendous asset to our university.”
“We all felt like Tom Crowley is the total package,” Mihalich said. “We feel like we really got lucky.”
Recalling their days as competitors, Crowley said Mihalich “did whatever he wanted to do against me,” and Mihalich said Crowley “was a lot better than me.”
Now, they’re on the same team.
“Maybe,” Mihalich said, “he can give me a couple plays that worked when he was at Stanford.”
Crowley begins work on Nov. 1, relieving interim director Steve Beatty, who has been leading the department since Ed McLaughlin left for VCU in July.
Said Joseph Levesque, university president, “It’s a brand new chapter for Niagara University.”Contact sports editor Jonah Bronstein at email@example.com.