Casey Long has little doubt he could play for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach John Shulman today, tomorrow or any time this season.
"But the next day I wouldn't feel so good," said Long, the only former Moc to record at least 1,000 points, 450 rebounds and 350 assists. "I'd need a lot of Advil."
Long is back on the bench for Shulman, but he's sitting closer to the head coach and wearing a suit and tie instead of a jersey and shorts for the games.
As the youngest of three assistant coaches — Brent Jolly and DeAntoine Beasley played at Tennessee Tech when Shulman assisted Jeff Lebo there — Long still works up a sweat before, during and after practice when the current crop of Mocs want (or need) extra work.
"I get here at 8 and I don't leave until the last player wants me to leave," said Long, now 27 years old. "My job is to be selfless."
Specifically, his job now is to teach instead of play. He's to pass along the knowledge and experiences he gained while playing from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2007 to one of the most inexperienced college teams in the country. Shulman hired Long this past offseason after Ricky Cabrera returned to Tennessee Tech.
"The first thing I did was call every player on the roster," Long recalled. "The second thing I did was take Dontay [Hampton] and Ronrico [White] for a 6 a.m. workout the very next day. It was fun to do that."
Coaching in college is new to Long, who has been on the job since June 4. His previous coaching experience included about two hours per day, six days per week for four months as a YMCA coach of 11- and 12-year-olds. He worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car during the day.
He took a cut in salary to become a college coach at his alma mater.
"I was very comfortable there," Long said. "When I came here, it wasn't about the money. I told my folks that I wanted to give guys a chance to graduate and be successful from the knowledge I could give them."
Part of that knowledge includes knowing how to win a championship.
Long, who would not be considered one of the best players in Mocs history but would be on the all-star list of most beloved, was the sophomore point guard on the 2005 SoCon tournament championship team.
"My greatest memory as a player is winning that very first game of the tournament and beating ETSU, because they beat us the year before," Long said. "We were already a close team, but that gave us so much confidence.
"We celebrated by practicing. Me and Chris Brown played one-on-one for an hour the next day. We were trying to win a game in the NCAA tournament."
The Mocs led Wake Forest, with Long defending Chris Paul, at halftime before falling 70-54 in Cleveland.
Even before then Shulman knew that Long would join the coaching ranks. He didn't know it would take several years to get him on the sideline.
"He's always known he'd get into coaching. It was just a matter of time," Shulman said. "It's in his blood, in his heart and in his soul. He's passionate about his job."
The players, especially the guards, are developing a relationship with Coach Long. Being in their shoes, on the same court and playing for the same coach inherently connects him to the players.
And they appreciate it.
"He knows exactly what I'm going through," White said. "He can show me what I need to see on the floor because he ran the same plays."
Long also has been known to teach White and the guys a few tricks Shulman can't share.
"He still tries to play pickup with us," White said. "He can still shoot it. But mostly he acts like a big and bodies us. We hold our own."
And sometimes Long needs an Advil.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...