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Chris Casey takes over Niagara basketball program

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Niagara University has hired Long Island University Post's Chris Casey as the Purple Eagles men's basketball coach.

Casey accepted the job Monday morning and was introduced at a campus press conference.

The Division II Pioneers went a combined 62-25 in three years under Casey, including an 18-9 finish last season. He will replace longtime coach Joe Mihalich, who left to take over at Hofstra two weeks ago.

The Purple Eagles have a young roster that returns mostly intact after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title last season.

In Casey's first two seasons at LIU Post, the Pioneers had consecutive 20-win seasons en route to back-to-back East Coast Conference championships and NCAA tournament berths.

"Chris Casey has a well-rounded experience in college basketball that will serve him well as our new men's basketball coach," Niagara athletic director Tom Crowley said in a news release. "He has an energetic and enthusiastic approach and a long history of helping student-athletes reach their dreams both in the classroom and on the court."

Casey previously spent six seasons as an assistant at St. John's University. Casey also spent three seasons at Central Connecticut State, where he was named the 2003 AFLAC national assistant coach or the year.

He spent three seasons as a head coach at Rutgers-Newark, and also had stints as an assistant at St. Peter's College, Western Connecticut State and St. Francis, N.Y.

Casey becomes the second consecutive Pioneers coach to make the jump to the MAAC. In 2010, he replaced Tim Cluess who has since led Iona to two NCAA tournament appearances.

Casey has big shoes to fill at Niagara, where Mihalich spent 15 seasons reviving the Purple Eagles' proud basketball tradition.

With a 265-203 record, Mihalich became the school's second-winningest coach and led Niagara to five postseason berths, including NCAA tournament appearances in 2005 and `07.

Last season, the Purple Eagles earned their third NIT berth under Mihalich despite having the conference's youngest starting lineup. It's a group that was led by sophomore guards Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason, both conference first-team selections last season. And it also includes forward T.J. Cline, who was selected to the conference all-rookie team.

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