Casey Long still has a comforting smile.
It's bright enough to relax everybody in the room, subtle enough to portray the confidence he has in himself and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball program and comforting enough to soothe players who have been blasted during a Mocs practice.
He's the good cop.
"I can yell a little bit," Long said last week. "But we have one big-time head coach and two assistants who could be head coaches. I come at the players in a different way.
"I'm more of a calm guy. But if they see I'm upset, then I'm really upset."
Long, who played for the 2003-07 Mocs under former coach John Shulman, is in his second year of coaching at the college level after several years working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
He held the title of interim head coach in the spring as UTC officials sought a new coach. They found Will Wade, who decided to retain Long on staff and give him all the duties of an assistant -- coaching, recruiting and scouting.
"He did a good job of keeping the team together during that six weeks, and I wanted somebody who knew the lay of the land with the city and the university, and he had a good feel for that," Wade said last week. "You could tell the players had a fondness for him.
"It made sense."
And it's working out. During a typical practice the voices of Wade, assistants Wes Long (no relation) and Turner Battle will echo through the gym. Casey Long takes the approach of simply talking -- instructing, encouraging or correcting -- to players individually when they get a second.
"He's a very positive guy and he's got very good relationships with our players," Wade said. "They like his personality. Almost every time you walk by his office there's a player in there.
"He's got a likability factor to him that carries over to the recruiting trail."
Long spent time on the recruiting trail for Shulman last season. He's already help build UTC's roster for next season by recruiting signee Shaq Preston, a 6-foot-3 guard from New Orleans.
"I recruited some last year, but the team was in place," Long said. "There's a lot of things working for Enterprise -- talking to people, building a relationship with people. That helped me more than anything in recruiting Shaq."
While recruiting comes naturally to Long, and coaching Shulman's offense and defense came to him like riding a bike, he's now studying more before teaching each day. He's watched dozens of videos from Virginia Commonwealth, where Wade served as an assistant, as homework.
"This is a whole different system, and it's an adjustment to learn so much new," Long said. "As I learn it, I apply it.
"You never stop learning in life or basketball."
He is seeing and absorbing new ways of coaching college basketball while applying his knowledge on the program as well.
"He's learning about the full-court press defense, and he's expanding into a lot of areas instead of just recruiting," Wade said. "I'm not asking him to do anything I haven't done.
"I got thrown to the wolves."
Long is, too. He's just smiling through the process of learning Wade's way.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.comUchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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