Casabella new coach of Byers Lady Lions

Teaching and coaching weren’t really in Courtney Casabella’s plan.

But the new girls basketball coach at H.W. Byers believes she’s right where she needs to be.

“H.W. Byers is similar to a high school I went to in New York – small classes and in a very small community,” she said.

Originally from Iuka, she said she has lived a lot of places. She graduated from Ohio State University, majoring in biology and French.

“I went pre-med and was all done and ready to go to medical school,” Casabella said.

But she just wasn’t quite ready to go back to the classroom as a student, she said.

Casabella, 24, got her alternative teacher certification and last year she was teaching and coaching in Texas.

Going into this school year she said she applied for jobs in several places, in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, “but picked this one.”

“I ended up liking the vibe at Byers,” Casabella said.

At the small school in Marshall County, she’s teaching physics, chemistry and algebra and coaching basketball, her first varsity coaching job.

“I really like teaching and coaching,” she said. “I am doing something very gratifying. To see a kid shy away from science and math in the beginning, and then when they do get it, it’s very gratifying. Suddenly they enjoy doing it.”

Casabella said she has been playing basketball since she was old enough to walk. Her grandfather and father were both coaches.

“I guess you can say it runs in the family,” she said.

She played high school basketball in western New York.

Casabella realizes the rebuilding position she is in at H.W. Byers with the Lady Lions. A program that won six state titles under former coach Jason Thompson, the last in 2014, has fallen on hard times.

“Since Coach Thompson left, I understand the program has been neglected,” Casabella said.

“And the girls and I talked about that together on the front end.

“They said, ‘Coach, look, it hasn’t been great. Will you pour everything you have into us?’

“And that’s what I’m doing. We’re a very young team – over half are freshmen and sophomores.”

She said she realizes this is likely not going to be the “most glamarous” season.

“But I know this,” Casabella said, “the girls have already made progress. And they’re very coachable and willing to learn.”

Four girls on the team have not played basketball since the elementary years or “never touched a basketball before,” she said.

“We’re young and inexperienced, but we will get there,” Casabella said.

Holly Springs South Reporter

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