Strength coach excited to get second opportunity at Dayton

Casey Cathrall returns after one season at University of Miami

Casey Cathrall sat at the end of the Dayton Flyers bench for the worst season of the last decade. He returns to that spot in time to witness one of the most promising seasons in recent memory.

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Cathrall served as Dayton's men's basketball strength and conditioning coach in the 2017-18 season, which saw the Flyers finish 14-17. He left for the same position with the Miami Hurricanes in June 2018. When Dayton lost Cathrall's replacement, Ed Streit, to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month, it hired Cathrall to replace him. His first official day was Friday, but he was on campus Wednesday to talk about returning to UD.

“Obviously, the expectations this year are really high,” Cathrall said, “but I think no matter what year it is, you should go in with those type of expectations, especially at a program like Dayton. This town is Dayton basketball. I don’t think you can have any other expectations.”

In his one season at Miami, the Hurricanes finished 14-18, ending a streak of 11 straight winning seasons. Cathrall didn’t want to discuss why he left Miami, but the familiarity he has with Dayton and the people he will work with made returning an attractive choice.

“It’s been such an exciting thing for me to have an opportunity to come back,” he said. “It’s really humbling the way I’ve been received by everyone. I feel really fortunate to be able to have another opportunity here.”

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Cathrall talked to Dayton players on Facetime after he was hired. He said there was much yelling and screaming. The players were that excited to hear he was coming back.

“We’ll see if you’re excited after leg day,” Cathrall told them.

While helping the players get stronger and get in shape is Cathrall’s job, he can’t do that without solid relationships with the players.

“It’s a cheesy saying, but they don’t care what you know until they know how much you care,” Cathrall said.

In a press release, Grant said Cathrall’s return gives Dayton “continuity in our strength program.” Cathrall will once again work alongside trainer Mike Mulcahey, who enters his seventh season with the program. Cathrall got an update from Streit on the players but also talked to Mulcahey as soon as he got back to campus on Tuesday to find out where the players are in their development.

“I got here on Monday,” Cathrall said, “and Tuesday morning, that was my first thing to do: talk to Mike and figure out where everyone’s bodies are at. At this point in the year, it’s always a difficult time whenever a transition occurs. We’re transitioning in six weeks to our full-time practice on Oct. 1. I want to make sure we’re going in ready to hit on all cylinders.”

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The players return to campus next week. Classes start Wednesday. Cathrall will test them and evaluate their fitness level as soon as he can. He wants to see with his own eyes how they’re doing, and from there, he’ll get them back into lifting and conditioning.

Cathrall has worked with everyone on the 11-man team except four players: sophomore guard Dwayne Cohill; redshirt junior center Jordy Tshimanga; redshirt sophomore forward Chase Johnson; and freshman center Moulaye Sissoko.

Two players Cathrall knows well did not play during his season with the team: Obi Toppin and Ryan Mikesell.

Obi Toppin, now a redshirt sophomore, sat out the season as an academic redshirt. Cathrall was not surprised to watch from afar as Toppin excelled last season, earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and all-conference first-team honors.

“We saw it every day in practice from a very early time here,” Cathrall said. “It was really exciting for me to sit on my couch some nights when I could catch the games and watch him and smile and laugh. He made that happen for himself every step of the way. It was exciting for me to see Obi be Obi.”

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It was also rewarding for Cathrall to see Mikesell, now a fifth-year senior forward, return to action after missing the 2017-18 season while recovering from two hip surgeries.

“The first time I got to Dayton he was coming off his surgeries,” Cathrall said. “We couldn’t do anything with his lower body for the first six weeks, and then it was very limited after that. To see him come full circle — and obviously he was practicing at full go by the time I left — and to watch him come back and play, you can’t help but smile. He’s such a great kid. Anybody who knows Ryan knows what he’s about.”

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