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Mo Cassara – From the Anonymous Head Coach to the Social Media Superstar

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

New York – When Mo Cassara joined up with former Hofstra Men’s Basketball head coach Tim Welsh last spring, he was looking for new opportunities and a fresh start. In less than a month, Cassara went from being the man behind the curtains to the star of the show.

The one-time assistant coach at Boston University had barely been able to unpack his luggage when he received the news that Welsh would be stepping down due to a DUI charge and that he would be the new leader of the Hofstra Pride.

A stranger to the team and the campus, Cassara was able to create a social media revolution that has evolved into a successful recruitment tool and enlivened an entire student body.

With the changing of technology, Cassara has set the bar of communication to a whole new level through outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. “You don’t have to tack a sign on a door anymore to gain attention” said Cassara. “I don’t have the experience that some of the guys in our league have, so I am going to give this a little flare”.

For Cassara, a “little flare” consists of having 1,500 friends on Facebook and 1,000 followers on Twitter with over 2,600 tweets. “Yesterday I was recruiting in Philadelphia and I was responding to messages for two hours” not only with athletes, but also students.

Cassara has used these mediums to speak to recruits and gain an upper-hand on his rivals around the league, who have not fully grasped their importance.

In what seemed like an impossible feat, Coach Mo was able to create a relationship with highly coveted recruit Malik Nichols. Nichols not only suffered from a speech impediment, but also had emotional issues, losing his high school head coach to suicide and his mother to a heart attack at age 17. Every morning, he would send Nichols a message as soon as he woke up, making it possible to build an unbreakable bond. “It was really hard to talk to him on the phone” said Cassara. “There is no other head coach sending this kid a facebook message at six o’clock in the morning…that is the stuff that you have to do sometimes.” Nichols will be attending Hofstra this upcoming fall and begin his college basketball journey.

Given the chance, Cassara has made the most so far out of his short time as head coach of the Pride. He has revitalized basketball and looks for new ways to interact not only with student athletes, but also with the general student body. From a time when Cassara could walk across the entire campus without being recognized, he has transformed into the notorious social media celebrity that everyone has come to know and support.

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Categories: College Sports

Social media lover? Basketball coach? —Mo Cassara

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

It was an “unexpected” Tuesday morning. Mo Cassara received a call from Hofstra basketball athletic director Jack Hayes about an interview with the school president Stuart Rabinowitz. Followed immediately, Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz announced Wednesday that a multiyear contract was agreed, no details were given though.

“When they asked me if I wanted to be the head coach, I said I’m going to do this a little differently than they’ve done it. Nobody knows me at that time. I spent some time living in the dorms on campus and tried to know the guys on the team.” said Cassara.

Coach Cassara has a family tradition basketball, his father used to be a basketball coach, this certainly gained him experiences that other don’t. As a matter of fact, the assistant coach he hired as Hofstra basketball head coach – Wayne Morgan, used to be the captain on his dad’s team.

Mo Cassara is a terrific young coach who was adept in using social media. He came to Hofstra after serving for the last four years as an assistant coach at Boston College from 2006-10. This college coach experience made him know that the effective way to let people familiar with him is communication. He uses face book and twitter to contact players and fans every day.

“I answer questions on face book every morning, I think kids felt they could communicate with me,” said Cassara. “Not just the basketball program, they could interact with me. And when I respond back to them, I think that goes a long way.”

Mo has quickly gained the trust of hofstra student-athletes and athletic department staff after couple games. Of course, this is also a result of his well use of social media. “Social media, such as facebook and twitter, has become a powerful vehicle of recruiting and communicating, however on the other hand, is a thing that you need to be really careful about, there are certain things you can’t post there”, said Mo.

On Mar. 23rd, Mo joined a Hofstra journalism class and talked about the first year he’s been through as Hofstra basketball team head coach. When asked about pressure faced as a head coach, he said, “Everybody gets jobs, our jobs is in no way different than anybody else’s, we all need to work hard on our jobs. The only difference is that our jobs involve dealing with the media, everything we do is on television or paper media, which adds up a lot pressure”.

After class, Coach Cassara posted a new tweet on twitter: “Great night and class! Thanks for the discussion in JRNL 241 tonight! Was great.”

Categories: College Sports

Cassara plays social media like a Stradavarius

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Coach Mo Cassara (credit: Newsday)

By Phil Hecken

“There is no other head coach that would send a kid a Facebook message at six o’clock in the morning,” Mo Cassara proudly says. “Lets be honest.”

Cassara, Hofstra Basketball’s first-year head coach, credits his expertise with social media such as Twitter and Facebook for allowing him to land prize recruit Malik Nichols.

“He has a very serious speech impediment,” Cassara says of Nichols. “When we were recruiting him, it was very hard to talk to him on the phone. So I talked to that kid on Facebook. I left him a Facebook message every morning.”

Following the resignation of newly-hired Hofstra Head Coach Tim Welsh, Cassara was offered the job within days and immediately began to chart a new course for the young team, using a multi-faceted social media approach.

“When they asked me if I wanted to be the head coach,” Cassara recalls, “I said I’m going to do this a little differently than they’ve done it. I’m going to give this a little different flair.” His mastery of social media set him apart.

Proudly displaying two cell phones on a desk, Cassara notes he carries one of them solely for social media. “I like the iPhone better to do Twitter and Facebook, and I’m on it all the time.”

The coach used Facebook and Twitter to strike up a rapport with the team. It showed his players he was “very much like them.”

“I think the kids felt they could communicate with me,” he says. “They could interact with me. When I would respond back to them, I think that goes a long way.”

Cassara also credits social media with generating a campus-wide buzz about the basketball program.

“We started linking [my Facebook and Twitter accounts] to our webpage,” he says. “So at the top of Hofstra’s basketball page, it says ‘Follow Coach Cassara’.” He attributes his growing number of ‘Friends’ and ‘Followers’ to an increase in attendance at basketball games this season.

Social media use not without some risks, however.

“You have to be very careful,” Cassara cautions. When a committed, but unsigned recruit proudly tweeted that fact, Cassara “re-tweeted, and it was a violation.”

“Everybody’s watching,” he says.

There may be other coaches who use social media, but few work it as well as Cassara. He often checks to see if other coaches have employed his techniques. More often than not, he is alone, and he uses it to his advantage.

“How can this staff not be friends with this kid?” he asks, following a potentially successful recruiting trip and noting he is the sole social media contact. “Well [now], we’ve got an in there, you know.”

Categories: College Sports

Hofstra University head coach, Mo Cassara, doing things differently

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Hofstra University’s men’s basketball head coach, Mo Cassara, has 1,740 Facebook friends and 1,423 Twitter followers. His Twitter handle, @Coach_Cassara, is included on 83 Twitter lists. But most importantly, he’s front and center on campus, using social media to create relationships with the University’s student body.

“The way that campus communities communicate, the way that happens – I think you have to be willing to change a little bit. I think you have to be willing to be a little different,” said Cassara.

Head Coach Mo Cassara with the Hofstra Pride basketball team

Head Coach Mo Cassara with the Hofstra Pride basketball team

Different is something Cassara embraced from the beginning of his career at Hofstra. In an opportune chain of events, he was offered the head coach position after Tim Welsh received a DUI in May 2010. At the time, Cassara was the assistant under Welsh with limited head coaching experience and a virtually unknown name in the CAA.

Upon accepting the position, Cassara said, “I’m going to do things a little differently then they’ve done it in the past. I’m going to give this a little different flare.”

Exemplifying his ability to be different and think outside of traditional communication methods, Cassara utilized social media.

A day that begins at 5:30 A.M. after a run with his two golden retrievers, Cassara begins the personal task of Facebook sharing, re-tweeting and most importantly, corresponding with students that have reached out to him through social platforms.

“I think kids felt they could communicate with me. Not just the basketball program, they could interact with me,” said Cassara. “And when I respond back to them, I think it goes a long way.”

Cassara has also used social media to connect with possible Hofstra Pride team members and credits Facebook as a valuable tool in the recruiting process. He specifically mentioned his daily 6:00 A.M. correspondence during recruitment process with Malik Nichols, who preferred the Facebook messages in lieu of verbal communication due to a speech impediment.

The increase in fans at the men’s basketball games is indication that Cassara is reaching University students. The 13 additional Facebook friends and 13 new Twitter followers since last week are signs that he’s successfully creating social media relationships with fans.

Cassara maintains an authenticity to his social media techniques. So much so, that a request for a follow up was answered within the hour and then a follow up to the follow up was sent… at 5:37 A.M.

Categories: College Sports

Cassara pioneering expanded use of social media among college coaches

March 26, 2011 1 comment
Mo Cassara

Mo Cassara

It’s 6:17 a.m. on a regular weekday. Most 37-year old men are just beginning their day, but not Mo Cassara. By this time, Hofstra University’s head basketball coach has already sent out Facebook messages to possible recruits and has answered students’ questions via Twitter.

Cassara has revolutionized the way a coach can use social media to remain in constant contact with the players and fans. Not many college coaches can say they have 1,727 Facebook friends and 1,408 followers on Twitter like Cassara has.

Cassara found himself in the right place at the right time after Tim Welsh—the coach hired to replace long-time Hofstra coach Tom Pecora—resigned after receiving a DUI in May 2010 just one month into his tenure. Cassara was hired as an assistant under Welsh and was promoted despite his limited head coaching experience.

He had always been a social media buff, and these skills helped him land the position.

“I’m going to do this a little differently than they’ve done in the past,” said Cassara. “I’m going to give this a little bit different flare. The social media has been a great vehicle for that.”

Once he was hired as an assistant, Cassara established a relationship of trust with Hofstra’s star player, Charles Jenkins, through Facebook and Twitter. Hofstra’s president, Stuart Rabinowitz, approached Jenkins when it was time to hire a new coach. Jenkins’ respect for Cassara through social media led to Mo’s hiring.

Though nobody knew who he was at first, Cassara used social media to create a buzz on campus. Rather than travel from dorm to dorm tacking up signs, he reached out to the student body by making himself available on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, Cassara carries a phone that he uses strictly for social media.

This new form of campus communication has thrived with the Hofstra community. Cassara said he is sometimes up all night responding to students’ comments and questions on Twitter.

“When I respond back to them, I think that goes a long way,” said Cassara. “Times have changed a little bit.”

In addition to connecting with students, Cassara has used Facebook and Twitter as valuable recruiting tools. For example, Cassara sent highly-touted Boys & Girls High School product Malik Nichols a Facebook message everyday during the recent recruitment period. Nichols suffers from a speech impediment, so Facebook provided a medium for communication.

Cassara’s social media skills have also allowed for a smooth transition to the New York media market. His coaching experience at Boston College and the University of Dayton taught him that he must be on top of his game all the time.

“I have to be the same person,” said Cassara. “At the end of the day, that gives you credibility with the media.”

After a 20-12 finish this season, Cassara will continue incorporating social media into his coaching philosophy. It’s been an eventful first year for Coach Mo, but that hasn’t stopped him from already preparing for next season.

Categories: College Sports

Hofstra Pride wrestling: hello NCAA Championships and new head coach

HEMPSTEAD, NY – The 2011 NCAA at-large bids and weight class brackets went out this past Wednesday with seven Hofstra Pride wrestlers qualifying for the NCAA championships. This announcement marked head coach Tom Shifflet’s fourth time in five years to have seven or more Pride wrestlers qualify and his unexpected resignation following the championship matches, which will be held next week.

In a statement released by Hofstra Athletic Director Jack Hayes, it was announced that associate head coach Rob Anspach would take over the pride after the conclusion of the NCAA championship.

Head Coach, Tom Shifflet and Associate Head Coach, Rob Anspach

Head Coach, Tom Shifflet and Associate Head Coach, Rob Anspach

“I’ve been in wrestling a long time. Been coaching for 14, 15 some odd years and things change in your life. I have to shift my thoughts and more of my time towards my family and I’ve struggled with that. That was probably the biggest determining factor,” said Shifflet. “And obviously I received a call about another job and it’s a great opportunity outside of wrestling.”

A student-athlete who graduated from Edinboro University, Shifflet was a four-time NCAA championship qualifier and a three-time All-American. His expertise for wrestling was acknowledged by Hofstra in 2006 when he joined the Pride as head coach.

His first season was an indication of the strong program he would develop over the next five years. He had an 18-4-2 dual record, led the Pride to secure its sixth straight Colonial Athletic Association championship and seventh consecutive title, as well as a seventh place finish at the 2007 NCAA championships, the current school-best.

“I addressed the team yesterday and said, ‘Look, I don’t want to talk about me. Moving forward, I want to talk about the NCAA tournament and preparing for it’,” said Shifflet when asked how his resignation faired with a team anxious leading up to championship matches in a week. “That’s where our mind is, that’s where our focus is and we don’t need any distractions.”

Senior Lou Ruggirello will wrestle at the NCAA tournament. Originally recruited by the previous head coach to Shifflet, Tom Ryan, Ruggirello is part of the first recruiting class Shifflet helped cultivate and develop for the Pride. Ruggirello is in his fifth season as a Pride wrestler and is a three-time CAA champion and NCAA qualifier. He entered the 2010-2011 season ranked sixth in preseason polls by InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News.

The new head coach will be Anspach who wrestled under Ryan and coached with him from 2002-2006 before Ryan left to coach at The Ohio State University. The head coach position Anspach originally applied for in 2006, but lost out to Shifflet, will finally be his starting Mar. 28.

“When Jack Hayes told me, I was excited. This is a place I’ve been at for a long time as an athlete, under Tom Ryan and under Tom Shifflet,” said Anspach of his new role within the Hofstra athletic department. “I’m excited for the challenge of leading this team, continuing down the path that Tom Ryan had started and Tom Shifflet followed up with. I want to continue to lead these guys to national champions, All-Americans and continue and build on the success they’ve already had.”

The 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held from Thurs. through Sat., Mar. 17-19 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Categories: College Sports