Longtime Belmont assistant set to become basketball coach at conference rival

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 4:49pm

Longtime Belmont assistant Casey Alexander reportedly is Stetson’s new men’s basketball coach.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Stetson, a private university in DeLand, Fla., has scheduled a press conference for 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday to make the announcement.

Messages left on Alexander’s cell phone and office phone were not returned. An athletic department spokesperson did not return messages either.

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, however, didn’t confirm or deny the reports when reached on Tuesday. While on a recruiting trip in Pennsylvania, Byrd responded to a text message about whether Alexander accepted the job: “Just got out of [high school] gym. Even if I knew, I should let Stetson or Casey make that announcement.”

Alexander interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at Stetson (Fla.) University. On Tuesday, Belmont head coach Rick Byrd didn’t know if the job had been offered to Alexander. But he said talks were getting “serious.”

“I think they were close,” Byrd said by phone earlier on Tuesday. “[Alexander] felt like they were close but I don’t know for sure where it is because it has been close to 24 hours since I have talked to him.”

The job came open when Derek Waugh stepped down as Stetson’s head coach in February. The News-Journal reported on Monday night that Embry-Riddle head coach Steve Ridder had reached a verbal agreement on a contract extension, scratching him off Stetson’s list of finalists.

Stetson, which along with Belmont is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, reportedly brought in six candidates to interview for the job last week.

Alexander is a graduate of Brentwood Academy and has coached at Belmont for the last 16 seasons. He also played point guard for Byrd and the Bruins from 1992-95.

He became Belmont’s associate head coach in 2002 and aided the transition from NAIA to Division I. He has also been instrumental in Belmont’s four trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last six years, including this past season when the Bruins went 30-5 and won the Atlantic Sun regular-season and tournament titles.

Alexander is currently part of the longest-tenured coaching staff in the country, along with Byrd (25 years) and assistants Brian Ayers (13) and Roger Idstrom (11).

Byrd said earlier this season that Alexander was ready to become a head coach. This offseason, Alexander was in contact with three league schools that had openings: Stetson, Kennesaw State and Florida Gulf Coast.

He was not chosen as a finalist for FGCU’s opening, which was filled last month when the school hired former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. Kennesaw State has yet to hire a new coach.

“He is going to be a great head coach wherever he is, there is no doubt in my mind about that,” Byrd said.

If Alexander does get hired by Stetson — or Kennesaw State — it would mean he would have to face Byrd and the Bruins twice per season. That could make things uncomfortable for both sides, but Byrd is more excited about the possibility of one of his assistants making the next step in his career.

“I won’t enjoy those games. ... It wouldn’t be my first choice but it is more important that Casey gets the opportunity than anything else,” Byrd said. “I really enjoy competing with guys that I admire and respect. I know he is going to run the program the way it is supposed to be done.”