La Salle Athletics looks to the future

February 2, 2024

With a new athletic director and plans for an arena renovation, a new college sports experience is coming to 20th and Olney.

From left to right: President Daniel J. Allen, Ph.D, and Vice President of Athletics & Recreation and Director of Athletics Ashwin "Ash" Puri.

From left to right: President Daniel J. Allen, Ph.D, and Vice President of Athletics & Recreation and Director of Athletics Ashwin “Ash” Puri.

The athletic experience at La Salle University is changing.

With new leadership and arena renovation plans, the institution is looking to provide student-athletes, fans, and the University community with an enhanced collegiate sports experience.

New Athletic Director

In August 2023, the University held an introductory event for Vice President of Athletics & Recreation and Director of Athletics Ashwin “Ash” Puri. Puri brings two-plus decades of sports industry experience to the role. He most recently served as senior associate athletic director and chief athletics operating officer at Villanova University.

Puri, who entered his role at La Salle in late July, shared the importance of building a new chapter for La Salle Athletics. “Under the direction of a visionary leadership group, led by President Allen, we bring a growth mindset to La Salle by building off of its values and the foundation that has been in place for decades,” he said. “No matter if it’s growth within our facilities or growth within our athletes, together we can strive to truly achieve the promise of a top-notch education and transformational experience for our students.”

Puri shared his primary focus in the role will be divided into four key areas:

  • Modernizing facilities
  • Fostering a culture of collaboration and compliance
  • Creating financial sustainability
  • Winning in the classroom, competition, and community

He added that as the NCAA evolves, La Salle will continue to focus on sustainable solutions for long-term success and advancement.

“Our work ahead is going to be a journey—with some wins and some losses—but a journey that turns a new page, ready for us to write the next chapter for La Salle,” Puri said.

The event also included remarks from President Daniel J. Allen, Ph.D., who spoke on how La Salle Athletics and its student-athletes are an integral part of the University’s mission and history.

“The legacy of La Salle Athletics is woven into the fabric of this University and the City of Philadelphia,” he said.

Allen added that with Puri’s experience and dedication, La Salle Athletics will continue to prosper.

“He importantly has an in-depth understanding of the Philly region and our athletics landscape, which we believe will be a cornerstone to his success,” Allen said. “I have the utmost confidence in Ash and his vision for La Salle Athletics.”

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Laura McCann, ’25, spoke about how her role as a student-athlete on the field hockey team has added so much to her University experience.

“It has also been such a privilege to build personal relationships with the coaches and athletics administrators who have such an impact on my day-to-day life and my college experience,” she said. “I’ve never once doubted that they actually care about how I’m doing as an individual, and that’s reflected through the resources we have access to that help us excel physically, academically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. La Salle Athletics really does feel like family.”

Image of the arena.

A renovated arena

In late September 2023, the University announced plans for a renovation project for TruMark Financial Center. The remodel was unveiled with a video followed by a fireside chat that included Allen, Puri, Men’s Basketball Coach Fran Dunphy, ’70, and Women’s Basketball Coach Mountain MacGillivray. It was moderated by Meg Kane, ’03.

The upgraded arena will feature a 360-degree bowl design that will change the court orientation to east to west instead of north to south. The new seating will place fans closer to gameplay. There will also be a hospitality area and additional premium seating surrounding the court.

“In any university setting, athletics often serves as the front porch to the university,” Allen said. “There are amazing things happening beyond that front porch. For me, the Athletics Department and all of our student-athletes serve a role to invite people into the University to experience the greatness of what we have here.”

Explorer fans can also expect upgrades to the video boards, audio system, lighting, and in-game production to enhance the entire fan experience.

The renovation project is made possible through a generous gift from the late John Glaser, ’62, and will be renamed John Glaser Arena. La Salle basketball legend Tom Gola, ’55, who is currently the arena’s namesake will be honored through the creation of Tom Gola Plaza, an area next to the arena where a statue of the Hall of Famer now stands, and the driveway in front of the arena will be renamed Tom Gola Way.

Preliminary work has already begun with the main renovations beginning at the close of this basketball season. The completion goal is for the opening of the 2024-25 basketball season, Puri explained.

“It’s going to be such a meaningful change to this program, both men’s and women’s programs, all of our student athletes, all of our current students, staff, faculty, and our entire community so we’re really excited,” Puri said.

The new arena will create a loud, intimate, and intense atmosphere, Puri added.

Dunphy said the upgraded arena design will be a key factor in the home court advantage. Fans surrounding the court will be a central piece to the encouragement and excitement players look for.

“These young men and young ladies are in here every single day to work at their craft, they want to get better, and when they see the new and improved renovations are here, I think they will be excited by that. I think our student population will be very excited,” Dunphy said. “We’re excited like crazy to have a new facility. It’s something that they will be very proud of and that everybody from La Salle will be proud of.”

MacGillivray agreed that the arena will make a big impact on the University.

“A big part of the recruiting process is going to be coming through here and being able to show off a brand-new arena,” he said. “La Salle University offers an incredible education with a faculty that really cares about the students. We’ve had so much to offer our kids but being able to throw a brand-new arena on top of that is going to be a big part of our future success.”

Puri said this is just the beginning of the upgrades the Athletic Department plans to make for an improved student-athlete and University community experience.