University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach John Shulman is looking to recapture some old magic by bringing back one of the stars of the team that beat Tennessee in Knoxville and went on to win the Southern Conference tournament.
Shulman announced Monday that former Mocs point guard Casey Long will join his staff as an assistant coach. Long will fill the position vacated by Rick Cabrera, who returned to Tennessee Tech.
"There's no doubt he is the absolute perfect fit for us," Shulman said at Monday's news conference. "Chattanooga fans loved Casey as a player, and I don't want that to change. He brings passion; he brings work ethic; he brings positive energy.
"He was a great leader and a great captain for us, and a pretty good player. ... He will step in immediately and give us immediate help."
Long played in 125 games and started 102 during his 2004-07 playing career, and he scored 1,043 points with 499 rebounds and 386 assists. He played in three SoCon championship games and won the one in 2005.
"I'm very grateful to [UTC athletic director Rick] Hart and Coach Shulman for giving me this opportunity," he said. "The biggest thing now is getting in with the players. You have to be able relate to your players first, and then everything will take care of itself."
Long is the first former Moc to join the men's basketball staff since John Gibson, who played in the mid-1980s and coached under Mack McCarthy.
This will be Long's first coaching job. Since graduating from UTC, he has remained in Chattanooga working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Shulman said Long's lack of experience was never a concern, despite interest in the opening from several experienced assistants and four former Division I coaches.
"I'm not in the least worried," Shulman said. "We went up to watch some tape and he said, 'Coach, why aren't we keeping the ball on the side like we used to?' and that's what I want from him.
"I left that film session with Casey ... knowing we could get back on top of this league. He gave me that belief."
Long will work with UTC's guards as well as on improving the team's defense, Shulman said, adding that Long's UTC experience and success will be particularly helpful after a disastrous 2012 season in which the Mocs finished 11-21 and lost to Georgia Southern in the first round of the SoCon tournament.
"I've been though the same thing they're going through," Long said. "I've been through the times where you struggle one season and you have to get back to the fundamentals. I can tell them how to get through it.
"This team is pretty good. They're very close, and I'm looking forward to working with them to show them how close they are."
Long said he is happy for this chance to return to basketball, especially at his alma mater where he created lasting memories.
"Chattanooga has embraced me since 2003," he said. "I haven't left the city. I love the city of Chattanooga, and this is a dream job for me to come back here and get back to it."
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...