Casey Alexander is glad to return home to Belmont after six years as a rival at Lipscomb University, and is ready to take the program Rick Byrd built and make it his own.
Surrounded by his colleagues, friends and family, Alexander embraced the school and community that molded him for 20 years.
The Belmont community officially welcomed Casey Alexander as the new men’s basketball coach at a press conference and pep rally in the Curb Event Center on Thursday morning.
Alexander talked about getting the opportunity to play under coach Byrd over 20 years ago in front of nearly 200 students, season ticket holders and the non-sweater-vest-wearing former coach.
“I took coach Byrd’s very, very small scholarship offer to come be a part of this team with no idea how lucky I would be, almost 30 years later, to stand here today and be recognized as the next head coach,” said Alexander.
Now as Belmont’s head coach, Alexander has deeper insight into the boulevard rivalry between the school he coached and the one he will coach now.
“It’s highly unusual in this business to take over and walk into a new job and inherit what we’re going to have,” Alexander said. “It’s going to be a lot easier to coach them than coach against them.”
And though Alexander’s coaching style will not be the same as Byrd’s, he said the program is still Byrd’s.
“We’re going to do everything we can to do this the way we do it,” said Alexander. “It’ll be different a little bit, but in my mind, as a guy who spent 20 years with him, learning from him, it’s always going to be his program. Whether he likes it or not.”
Scott Corley, director of athletics, had Alexander in mind from the moment Byrd announced his departure, and was very pleased with how the hiring process turned out.
“I think it was the right timeline. We made sure we were looking at the entire landscape and seeing what other options were out there and then obviously we narrowed it down to Casey,” said Corley. “If you watched his Lipscomb teams, he incorporates a lot of what Belmont has done, so I think our players will be able to assimilate his coaching tendencies really quickly, and so therefore we shouldn’t have much of a setback from just that part of the change.”
The next step for the Bruins new skipper is to build a coaching staff that can help him win championships.
“Quite naturally, I had a coaching staff at Lipscomb that did a heck of a job and are incredibly good and loyal to me, and then I’m very comfortable and knowledgeable of the staff that was here that did the exact same thing,” said Alexander.
Brian Ayers, the current Belmont associate head coach, was one of the top head coaching candidates behind Alexander. Both coaches spent 15 years together on Byrd’s coaching staff, so Ayers may be a favorite to stick around.
“The reality is there’s essentially eight people for four spots so those are some tough decisions,” Alexander said.
Just like building a coaching staff, Alexander has some decisions when building his team. New recruits, like three-star recruit Kaleb Coleman who committed to Lipscomb, would be huge assets for Belmont.
But Alexander thinks it’s unlikely.
“It’s not something we’ll pursue in any way, shape or form. They chose Lipscomb for good reasons,” said Alexander. “Lipscomb’s recruits are Lipscomb’s recruits.”
Alexander said he is excited to change that purple and yellow for the red and blue.
“It’s a great fit for me,” said Alexander, whose job is moving 20 blocks down Belmont Boulevard. “I love Belmont, it’s a great place, it’s an unbelievably proud and tradition rich program, so I’m very blessed to carry the torch.”
This article written by Steven Boero. Contributing reporting by Bronte Lebo and Gabby Smedley. Video production by Abigail Bowen and Colby Crosby. Photos by Carina Eudy, Melissa Kriz and Joe Bendekovic.