Niagara University hired Chris Casey to be their 21st men’s basketball head coach in school history, athletic director Tom Crowley officially announced the hire today.
“I’m very well aware of the history of Niagara basketball,” Casey said. “To be chosen for this position, with the great history of this university and the great history of this basketball program, is truly an honor.”
Casey will replace Joe Mihalich who left for Hofstra after 15 seasons with the Purple Eagles. This will be Casey’s first experience as a Division I head coach, following a three-season tenure at Division II LIU Post where he went 65-25. Casey replaced Tim Cluess at LIU Post who went to Iona and has made two NCAA tournaments in three years with the Gaels.
Casey said he called Mihalich over the last two days seeking advice and couldn’t help but praise the job Mihalich did over 15 years at the program at the press conference.
“He was great,” Casey said of Mihalich. “He’s established something very special here. At the very least we are going to maintain and we are going to give every effort to taking that to another level.”
Casey said he met with the players last week for the first time for a little over an hour and he said there was an atmosphere of team in the room.
“I walked away feeling great, even though I dont know them well yet,” Casey said. “I feel great about the approach of this group just from the atmosphere in the room.”
“I can’t wait to coach you. I can’t wait to get on the floor and get started. To be honest with you I wish tomorrow was October 15th so we could get past everything and just get started with practice.”
Casey inherits a roster that won the MAAC regular season championship despite being the 39th youngest team in the country last season.
“What they did last year in winning the regular season, that’s something that doesn’t happen all the time,” Casey said. “That’s a special situation. You don’t just walk around the corner and find that somewhere else. There has to be a certain chemistry and a togetherness to be able to achieve that.”
“They’ve established that. My job is to come in and to keep that, and hopefully get that to another level and get it to the next step with our team.”
Casey said he talked to them about staying together and the opportunity they have to finish the job they started after winning the regular season title.
“The mentality we talked about is ‘hey let’s finish the job,'” Casey said. “Let’s finish the job together, we came in together, we persevered through difficult things together we’ve had victories together. Now let’s chase the prize and finish the job.”
Before taking the head coaching job at LIU Post in May 2010, Casey was an assistant on Norm Roberts’ staff at St. John’s for six seasons. After starting as the Director of Basketball Operations for two seasons, Casey was promoted to an assistant on Roberts staff and coached four seasons at St. John’s. Prior to St. John’s, Casey was the top assistant at Central Connecticut State for three seasons.
Casey has head coaching experience at the Division II and III levels in his past. Casey was head coach at Division III Rutgers University-Newark for three seasons from 1998 until 2001. In his final season, Casey won New Jersey Athletic Conference Coach of the Year leading his team to postseason for the first time since 1985.
The newest head coach is familiar with the MAAC, having been an assistant at St. Peter’s for eight seasons before taking the head coaching job at Rutgers University-Newark. While with the Peacocks, Casey was on staff for St. Peter’s MAAC tournament championships in 1991 and 1995.
Ryan Restivo covers Stony Brook, Hofstra and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo.