David Otero Sports Editor
Niagara University announced the hiring of Chris Casey to become their next men’s basketball head coach on Monday, April 22. Last season, Casey guided the Pioneers to an 18-9 record. Over his three-year stay at LIU Post he brought a winning attitude as shown by his 62- 25 overall record.
Jon Rothstein, a College Basketball Insider for CBS Sports Network and WFAN, was one of the first reporters to break the story that Casey was leaving Post. Rothstein said in a tweet back on April 12 that “Casey is heavily involved with the vacancy at Niagara, per multiple sources.”
When trying to contact Casey, he apolo- gized and he said he could not comment on the matter. Niagara’s Director of Athletics, Tom Crowley, was unavailable to give a statement when trying to contact him. However, at Casey’s press conference welcoming him to Niagara, Crowley said that Casey “has a well- rounded experience in college basketball that will serve him well as our new men’s basketball coach. He has an energetic and enthusiastic approach and a long history of helping student- athletes reach their dreams both in the classroom and on the court.”
Casey’s first season under the helm for Post was the 2010-2011 season when he directed the team to a 21-10 record and an East Coast Conference Championship. In the first round of the NCAA Division II East Regional, the Pioneers lost 74-60 to Bentley University. Four Pioneers were selected to All-ECC teams, and Stefan Bonneau earned ECC Player of the Year under the tutelage of Casey.
Vaughn Allen is a junior forward for the Pioneers who was recruited by Casey, and has played his entire collegiate career under his guidance. “I’m going to miss his coaching style, the friendship that we built up over the last three years. He brought me in as a freshman when he was a new coach in the system and he put a lot of trust in me. I’m going to miss a lot of things both on and off the court.”
Following Casey’s first season, the Pio- neers earned their second consecutive ECC Championship and finished with a 23-6 record. It was their fourth championship in five years and once again, the team made its way to the NCAA Tournament. Again, Casey coached the ECC Player of the Year (Bonneau), and at the same time he helped mold the game of the ECC Rookie of the Year (Tyuan Williams). For the outstanding campaign, Casey was awarded the ECC Coach of the Year and as well as the Divi- sion II Coach of the Year. However, the season ended on a tough note as the Pioneers lost 66- 65 in the first round of the Tournament against Adelphi College.
This past year, the Pioneers had a difficult time as the season progressed. The team start- ed out dropping all of its first three contests, but rebounded rattling off 11 straight victories. After that, the Pioneers alternated wins and losses in six consecutive games, unable to develop a rhythm throughout games. The Pio- neers entered the ECC Tournament as a threeseed, but lost to Dowling College in the first round of the playoffs, and their season came to an abrupt end.
Casey takes over at Niagara (a Division I university), which needed to fill its vacancy after previous head coach, Joe Mihalich, left to coach Hofstra University. Casey becomes the second consecutive LIU Post men’s basketball coach to join the MAAC. Three years ago, Casey replaced Tim Cluess at Post. Since then, Cluess has engineered two NCAA Tournament appearances for Iona.
“As a member of the broadcast team, it makes my life a whole lot easier when members of the athletic department share the same enthusiasm that we share,” said Matt Soldano, WCWP’s men’s basketball play-by-play an- nouncer during last season. “Coach Casey was always very gracious to accommodate us with interviews from either himself or his players. I think I speak for everyone at WCWP when I say, we wish him nothing but the most success at Niagara.”
Allen looked back on his favorite experience with Casey. “Winning our first ECC Cham- pionship my freshman year. That’s my favorite memory. That got the school on the right track.”
Casey is the 21st head coach in Niagara’s men’s basketball history. On Monday during his introduction to Niagara’s players, students and staff, Casey said: “I am very aware of the history of Niagara University and the Niagara basketball program. To have the honor to coach here is very exciting and I am looking forward to getting started.”
LIU Post has not yet announced who will be coaching this upcoming season for the Pioneers.