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By LARRY VAUGHT
Former University of Kentucky defensive back Mike Cassity says there is â€œnot much I can sayâ€ about rumors that he will be joining Joker Phillipsâ€™ coaching staff at UK even though The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va., has also reported his hiring.
Cassity has been the secondary coach at Marshall the lat two years, including 2009 when current UK defensive coordinator Rick Minter was Marshallâ€™s defensive coordinator. Cassity was also defensive coordinator at Cincinnati in 1994 when Minter was the head coach there.
â€œOne of the main reasons I came to Marshall was to work with him,â€ said Cassity, a safety at Kentucky who graduated in 1976 with a degree in physical education. â€œWe had a great working relationship. He is a very good ball coach. Rick and I work well together. We have the same coaching philosophy, know the same terminology. He is still doing the same things. We did a lot of his defense obviously when I was his coordinator at Cincinnati. He is just an excellent coach.â€
Cassity, who had current UKâ€ˆtight ends coach Greg Nord as a Kentucky teammate, watched the Wildcats beat Mississippi last season during an open date for Marshall.
â€œBeing a typical college fan, I just watched the game but I could see the guys really bought into what Rick brings to the table,â€ Cassity, who was Southeastern Conference wrestling runner-up in the 190-pound division, said.
Cassity has an extensive coaching resume. He has 34 years of coaching experience, including seven as a defensive coordinator. He has coached 34 players who have gone on to play in the NFL.
He was defensive coordinator at Louisville from 2004-2007 and had a defense ranked among the nationâ€™s top 40 in total defense each season. His 2006 team ranked 17th in the country in scoring defense and in 2005 the Cards ranked 21st in rushing defense and 23rd in scoring defense. In 2005, Louisville was 15th nationally in total defense and he was recognized as one of the nationâ€™s top 25 recruiters the same season.
Cassity was defensive coordinator at Illinois for three seasons, including in 2001 when the Illini won the Big Ten championship. He was co-coordinator at Oklahoma State with Rob Ryan in 1999 and was the defensive coordinator at Baylor in 1997-98.Â He has been defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech (1992-93), East Carolina (1990-91), Northeast Louisiana (1989) and Western Kentucky (1983-88).
He was also the secondary at Wisconsin in 1995-96, Morehead State in 1982 and Kentucky in 1979-81. Cassity, a Fort Campbell native, started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Kentucky and then coached at Paducah Tilghman High School. He spent six months coaching at Fern Creek High School in Louisville after leaving UofL.
â€œWhen they put me in the grave, I might be the only coach with the distinction of playing at Ft. Campbell, playing at Kentucky, coaching at Kentucky and also coaching at Western Kentucky, Morehead, Louisville, Paducah Tilghman and Morehead.
â€œThe greatest thing about coaching is that each and every day you wake up excited to go to work. There a lot of people who make more money than coaches who hate their jobs. Each day is a new challenge. The longer I have been in college coaching, the more exciting it is. I am very energized each day to go to work and that is important as a coach.â€
Cassity says heâ€™s not dramatically changed his coaching style. He says heâ€™s learned from various coaches from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez to Ryan at Oklahoma State.
â€œI have been around good coaches. When I was at Oklahoma State, I would go into home and tell mothers of defensive backs that somebody would make (ESPN) SportsCenter each game because our corners are going to press up and play tight coverage. Iâ€™ve always had an aggressive mentality,â€ Cassity said. â€œAt Louisville, we always had some good defenses. I have not changed that approach to coaching.â€
Heâ€™s been a bit surprised by the reaction to reports that he is headed to Kentucky to fill the vacancy created when Steve Brown was not rehired as the secondary coach.
â€œI still have a lot of friends in the Lexington area. However, I never expected all the phone calls and texts when it came out that Iâ€ˆmight be headed back to Lexington. I heard from people I have not heard from in years,â€ Cassity said.
Cassity says if he does get hired at Kentucky, heâ€™s not worried about speculation that Kentucky must show dramatic improvement from the 11-14 mark Phillips has compiled the last two years to avoid a head coaching change after the 2012 season.
â€œEvery year is a tough year in college coaching,â€ Cassity said. â€œThere are no easy games no matter where you are. But every game is winnable, too.
â€œI just hope this thing works out well. But all I know today is that Iâ€ˆam going to work at Marshall because Iâ€ˆhave not been hired at Kentucky.â€