After nearly two decades at La Salle, what Tom Brennan cherishes most are the relationships.
"For me, working in athletics, it's always been an opportunity to make a difference," he said on Monday, after the university announced that he will no longer be its Athletic Director once the basketball season is over. "On one level you help transform the lives of students. You get to connect with lots of different stakeholders, as we call them. And that's what's really rewarding, to be in that kind of a position.
"Sometimes people measure athletic success by wins and losses. But it's more than that. In the last half-hour I've gotten about 50 emails from faculty and staff and alumni and friends. You see people grow, you see student-athletes grow, you see coaches grow. It's a nice thing to be part of that."
Brennan — who came to 20th and Olney in 1997 to succeed Bob Mullen — says the decision to leave was his, although the timing does seem at least somewhat unexpected.
"It's been a good run, absolutely" he stressed. "This will provide me with an opportunity to really pursue other challenges. I wish La Salle the very best. I just think for me, right now, this is a good time to look for (something else) ... That's my intention.
"I'm not even sure if my next move will be in athletics or not. I have skills that could translate into other (areas)."
Sources familiar with the situation believe the school will look to hire someone who can help more with fundraising. Like many private institutions, which are totally enrollment-driven, they said La Salle needs to become more "self-sufficient" in terms of running its athletic program.
Toward that end the school just said it's adding three sports: womens' golf and mens' and womens' water polo. That brings its number to 25.
A new president, Colleen Hanycz, has been on the job since last summer.
"It's an amicable departure," Brennan said. "After so much time, I can tell you it's very difficult to say goodbye. But the people here have treated me very well.
"I think at La Salle, generally speaking, they've been fair-minded about the expectations. Having said that, nobody watches their team to lose. It can be difficult. One day you're in the Sweet 16, the next day you're trying to win a basketball game."
That memorable Sweet 16 ride orchestrated by John Giannini happened in 2013 and was undoubtedly the highlight of Brennan's tenure. But the mens' and womens' cross-country teams have also been successful, and womens' soccer made it to four straight NCAA tournaments from 2011-14.
There were also difficult moments, most notably when three basketball players were accused of rape in 2004. They were later acquitted, but not before they were expelled and two coaches — Billy Hahn and John Miller — had lost their jobs. And Brennan was criticized by many for the way the situation was handled.
"I'm not going to go back and re-examine history," he said. "I feel as though the judgments I've used have been really good judgments over many years. I think there's been a lot of positives, and I take a lot of pride in that."
Brennan, a Brooklyn native who graduated from LeMoyne in 1973, was also the AD at San Jose State (1990-97) and Loyola Maryland (1986-90). Before that he worked at New Mexico and Syracuse.
Hanycz said in a statement that an interim AD will be appointed in the coming weeks, followed by a national search to find a replacement.