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Casey takes over Niagara basketball program

LEWISTON, N.Y. (AP) - Chris Casey has inherited a winning program and high expectations in his first Division I head coaching job.

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Casey was introduced Monday as the new men's basketball coach at Niagara University. The former coach at Division II Long Island University Post takes over a program that went 19-14 and won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship in 2013 with the youngest roster in the conference.

``Most coaches come into a job and they come in because the situation hasn't been good,'' Casey said. ``That is certainly not the case here.''

Casey is replacing Joe Mihalich, who won 265 games and led Niagara to five postseason berths, including two NCAA tournament appearances, in 15 seasons before leaving for Hofstra.

``I want to acknowledge Joe Mihalich,'' Casey said. ``He didn't do a good job, he did an outstanding job. I spoke to him on the phone a couple times these last few days and tried to pick his brain for some insight. I kidded him and said, `Joe, could you make it any harder? Not only did you win, but you might be the most loved person in western New York that anyone has ever come across.'''

Casey did his share of winning at LIU Post, going 62-25 over the last three seasons and twice qualifying for the Division II NCAA tournament. Casey previously spent six seasons as an assistant at St. John's University. Casey also spent three seasons at Central Connecticut State, where he was named the 2003 national assistant coach or the year.

He spent three seasons as a head coach at Rutgers-Newark, and also had stints as an assistant at St. Peter's College, Western Connecticut State and St. Francis (N.Y.).

``Chris Casey impressed many in our administration and we feel that he can lead us to new heights,'' Niagara athletic director Tom Crowley said. ``Chris has a long line of experience in college basketball and is someone we think will build on our tradition and become our next outstanding coach.''

Antoine Mason, Niagara's leading scorer a year ago, has heard good things about Casey from his older brother, Anthony Mason Jr., a former St. John's player.

``He said that he's a very good guy,'' Mason said. ``He will let his playmakers make plays and that's something that we have, a lot of playmakers.''

Juan'ya Green, who like Mason was selected to the all-MAAC team as a sophomore, said Casey made a favorable impression when he met with the team Friday.

``He gave off a good vibe to everybody,'' Green said. ``He has the same coaching style, basically, as Coach Mihalich. So I think he'll fit perfect.''

Niagara is set to return all but one rotation player from last season, including its top five scorers.

``What they did last year was special. It doesn't happen all of the time,'' Casey said. ``They are in the envious position of a lot of people to have 90 percent of that back and have the opportunity to do something really special. They came in together, persevered through difficult things together and had victories together. Now let's go ahead and chase the prize and finish the job.''

Casey becomes the second consecutive LIU Post coach to make the jump to the MAAC. In 2010, he replaced Tim Cluess who has since led Iona to two NCAA tournament appearances.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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