Niagara University's contract extension for men's basketball coach Chris Casey a contract extension is a reflection of Casey's strong relationship with university president, the Rev. James Maher, and Niagara's desire to try to bring some sembalnce of stability to the program.
Eyebrows no doubt were raised by the news Wednesday that Casey, along with hockey coach Dave Burkholder, received contract extensions. Casey is 15-48 in two seasons, and his program was rocked by turmoil this offseason. The Purple Eagles lost seven players to transfer, and budding star forward Dominique Reid left school (presumably he was expelled) after a string of arrests.
Maher played a huge role in the hiring of Casey in 2013, and Casey obvioulsy has worked hard to communicate well and maintain a strong relationship with both the president and athletics director Simon Gray. (Gray was hired a year after Casey.) Niagara is not in the habit of buying out coaches' contracts. It thinks it finally has turned the page on the fallout from the departure of former coach Joe Mihalich. (Four non-graduating players left with Mihalich. Four more transferred a year later. The transfer of seven Casey recruits partly reflects the scramble to fill holes. Some of those recruits weren't good enough and some were late signees who didn't fit.)
Casey helped his bid to stay this offseason by working hard to fill the holes, adding eight recruits. Among them are a couple of pretty impressive transfers who will be sitting out this year. One is guard Kahlil Dukes, who transferred from the University of Southern California. He scored 2,228 points in his high school career in Hartford, Conn. Guard Kevin Larkin led all Division II freshmen in scoring last season (at 17.8 ppg) for Cheyney University.
Giving Casey an extension aids his recruiting efforts further this fall. It also sends a strong message to the team that he is the undisputed sheriff in town. At the same time, Casey must prove he inspires loyalty from his players. Niagara fans can only hope that the program's instability is over.