Story by Cory Sharber, contributing writer
Casey Long has brought his glass-half-full mentality to the Murray State men’s basketball team as an assistant appointed by Head Coach Matt McMahon.
Formerly a student-athlete at UT-Chattanooga, Long started as an assistant coach with the Mocs before landing an assistant coaching gig at Virginia Commonwealth University, where they went 51-20 in two seasons and earned two NCAA tournament appearances.
“I was very fortunate at VCU,” Long said.”The one thing I can take from there and Chattanooga is the building blocks. Everybody has a blueprint of what they want to get done, but you’ve got to adjust to the circumstances and the players you have,” Long said.
Long said his personal experience on the court has helped him tremendously when relating to the players he’s coaching.
“The job of a coach is to be understanding, that you’re trying to push them to be the best athlete they can possibly be, but also the best person they can be,” Long said. “With great responsibility, you’ve got to be mindful of that.”
Long graduated from Chattanooga with a political science degree while maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. His commitment to his academics while simultaneously balancing athletics helped to prepare the first year assistant for the challenges of coaching.
“Being in political science and having to maintain GPA standards, you have to practice discipline,” Long said. “It related to coaching more than anything I could have imagined.”
Long praised the efforts the Racers put into the classroom and the attentiveness they have shown on the court saying the players listen and do the right things.
This is one of the things Long said that he loves about coaching: not the money, but the opportunity to see how his players have developed over time.
“It’s about the passion. It’s not about the financial side of it,” Long said. “It’s about raising young men and helping a young man become the best person that they can possibly be.”
The support Long received from his parents impacted his career path, in which Long credited his father as the main inspiration for him to get into coaching.
Long’s father played at Lamar University before playing professionally. Injuries derailed his coaching hopes, so he had to join the military in order to support his family.
“He always wanted to coach, but he had to sacrifice for his family,” Long said. “When I got the opportunity to coach, I wanted to do it for him first and foremost.”
While playing at UT-Chattanooga, Long developed an interest in coaching. Long made connections with other coaches overtime, which culminated in him receiving an offer to coach at Murray State.
When Long was playing in college, he met McMahon while he was coaching at Appalachian State University. Long even played against Assistant Coach Shane Nichols in college.
His penchant for building connections has allowed him to step into a role not just for player development, but for player morale as he has done his part to remain a positive influence for the Racers during the season.
“I try to have my players leave with a smile every day,” Long said. “It’s not about the coaches; it’s about them.
The end goal for Long’s season is for the Racers to be competing in the NCAA tournament. He said before the Racers enter the bracket, there will be steps they have to accomplish along the way.
Player development isn’t all about the athlete; it’s about the student and the individual qualities that they possess.
“The number one goal for them is to win every single day: winning at practice, learning on and off the court, becoming a better person,” Long said.
Long said he wants to maintain a relationship with as many of the athletes he can after college, and he looks forward to invitations to their weddings and graduations.
“My goal is to be the best person I can be for them and continue to have a lifelong bond with them,” Long said. “It’s not about me; it’s about them.”