CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Casey Long's first year as a college basketball coach was unlike anything he could have ever predicted.
But at least he is getting a second.
New University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Will Wade announced Tuesday he plans to make Long part of his staff after the former UTC player served as the program's interim head coach the past 54 days.
"I met with Casey this morning. I know he loves Chattanooga. He bleeds blue and gold, and I know the players have great respect for him after all the time he has spent with them, so he's going to be a part of my staff for sure," said Wade, who added he'd also like to hire an assistant with previous head coaching experience. "He's young and energetic. He loves the program and lived it out as a player, so I couldn't be more excited to keep him here.
"He's going to have to show me the ropes here for a couple of weeks."
Long breathed a sigh of relief at the news, happy to hand off some of the responsibilities he never expected to have ten months after accepting his first college coaching job.
The former Chattanooga point guard joined John Shulman's staff last June after working outside the game since earning his degree in 2007. He was instrumental in molding a young roster that included six freshman, then was tabbed as interim coach when Shulman was fired on March 20.
Not exactly the hands-on experience most assistants get in their first year on the job.
"I'm extremely thankful for the process because no one could have told me a year ago this would all happen to me," Long said. "Working with not just one coach, but now two coaches in about a year and going through that transition process is a lot. Maintaining the players, keeping them here and making sure they're staying strong academically, that's not something someone can teach you. I had to learn all that for myself.
"Now having been through it, I think I can look back on and say I got through it pretty well."
Long is excited to start working with Wade to implement the former VCU assistant's "Chaos" brand of basketball, noting his energetic personality meshes well with Wade's passion and vision for the program.
He did his best to help UTC's players remain patient during a lengthy transition, and now he believes that patience will be rewarded.
"My whole mindset the whole time was to take care of the players. They wanted to know who their head coach was, but I kept telling them to keep their worry on what they could control," Long said. "Make sure you control your academics and what you do workout-wise, and just know that everything else will take care of itself.
"I made sure they knew that no matter how long the process went on, it was always going to work out in the most beneficial way for them, and I think they're ecstatic right now."
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