The last time Belmont hired a new men’s basketball coach it was 1986.
The 3-point line had just been implemented, Ronald Reagan was president and a Big Mac was $1.60.
The same year Belmont hired Rick Byrd, Belmont also got the carillon bells back after the university sold them for desperately needed funds.
Since then both the Bell Tower and Byrd became symbols for the university.
Byrd oversaw the then Belmont Rebels from the small but loud National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to the NCAA Division I and led the newly named Bruins to eight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Casey Alexander will now take the program Byrd built into a new era.
“I cannot be more excited to be your new head basketball coach,” said Alexander, 46, in a video released by Belmont Athletics. “We all know what coach Byrd and his players and his staff have done here and the great legacy they’ve created, and now it’s our job to keep that going and take this program new places.”
Alexander’s Belmont roots run deep — he is a Belmont basketball alumnus, former assistant coach and, as of yesterday, a former Belmont rival.
For six years Alexander has been a coach on Belmont Boulevard at the school down the street, Lipscomb University.
During his time there, he turned the Bisons from Belmont’s annoying little brother to an NCAA competitor that put the Bruins in their place, beating them twice in 2017.
Though Lipscomb didn’t receive the at-large bid in the 2019 NCAA Tournament that Belmont did, Alexander drove the Bisons to the National Invitational Tournament Final at Madison Square Garden, defeating North Carolina State and Wichita State along the way.
Sadly, the Bisons were too much of an underdog to beat the University of Texas, losing 81-66.
However, Alexander was no underdog when it came to speculation on who would replace Byrd.
Media from The Tennessean to Nashville TV stations quickly predicted Alexander, the 2019 Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year, as the clear frontrunner.
Alexander has paid his dues to the college basketball world.
He spent two years with Stetson University where he transformed a losing team into a winning team with a conference record of 11-7 in his second year. Then, over his six years at Lipscomb he brought the program an A-Sun tournament championship as well as national recognition.
When he comes to Belmont, Alexander will receive quite the raise. He accepted a multi-million dollar deal with a yearly paycheck of around $800,000 over the next five years, according to News Channel 5.
At Lipscomb, he made $288,615 during the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year.
A year earlier, Byrd by comparison, earned significantly more — $937,008 in the 2016 to 2017 fiscal year, according to IRS tax filings.
While Alexander admits it will always be Byrd’s program, Thursday’s press conference will be a celebration for Belmont as fans will see their new coach wear the Belmont blue and red for the first time since 2011.
The only question left to ask: will he transition to the sweater vest?
Photo courtesy of Belmont’s Office of Communications