Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)
Bonner-Prendergast boys’ basketball has played a significant role in many stages of Billy Cassidy’s life. Now, it’ll take another step up as he begins as the program’s head coach.
The former Friars player and assistant, was hired by Bonner-Prendie last week to serve as a head coach for the first time in his career, replacing Kevin Funston.
“It feels amazing,” the 28-year-old Cassidy said by phone on Monday. “It’s a special moment, for sure. Just all my basketball experiences, to being in this position right now, it’s a surreal moment and it means a lot to all my family members.”
Billy Cassidy (above) takes over as Bonner's boys coach after three years as a Penncrest assistant. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Over 20 members of Cassidy’s family on both his mother’s and father’s side graduated from Monsignor Bonner or Archbishop Prendergast, prior to the two schools’ 2012 merger. Growing up in Delaware County, Friars hoops piqued Cassidy’s interest from an early age. He made his way to see Bonner play as often as possible.
“Bonner basketball was the program I grew up going to watch as a young kid, going to all the summer camps,” Cassidy said. “Any time there was an opportunity to go up to Bonner High School for a basketball game or event, I was pretty much there.”
He was present so often as a kid that the staff eventually took notice. The Friars invited Cassidy to be their ball boy after seeing him come to most of their games. He sat on the bench with the varsity team from first to fourth grade, sparking his affinity for the sport.
“The gym was always sold out,” he said. “The games were always competitive. As a kid, that’s where you wanted to go to school if you loved basketball.”
Eventually, Bonner was where he attended school. The kid who could once be found dribbling around his neighborhood or putting up shots at halftime of a Friars game played at Bonner from 2008-2011. He averaged 10.5 points at the guard position in 2010-2011, but transferred to Friends’ Central after the year following a coaching change with hopes for a better opportunity to play college ball down the line.
Cassidy reclassified after leaving Bonner, playing two years for FCS and helping the team win the 2012 PAISAA state championship. He then went on to join the Division II Chestnut Hill basketball team for two seasons before transferring to Division III Neumann in 2015. After tearing his ACL in his first game for the Knights and subsequently redshirting, Cassidy was a standout shooter for Neumann from 2016-2018.
Upon finishing college, Cassidy began coaching for the first time when Funston brought him along as an assistant at Bonner-Prendie. It was a new endeavor, and it ended in success as the Friars won the 2019 District 12 4A title and made it to the PIAA state final.
“Learning with the kids, being on the other side and trying to help the players in games and practices and do a lot of the skill development in the offseason was huge,” Cassidy said.
The next season, Cassidy made his way to Penncrest High School, where he spent the last three years as Mike Doyle’s top assistant. During a majority of the 2020-2021 season, Cassidy was the acting head coach as Doyle stepped away from the court for health concerns.
“Making the transition over to being the top assistant for Mike Doyle was the best decision for my coaching career,” he said. “Just the aspect of being able to learn how to run a program in every way.”
Having been a player in the not-so-distant past along with having some head coaching experience — at least in practice — Cassidy believes he can bond quickly with his players. That’ll be key for the first-year coach as he looks to improve on a 2021-2022 season in which Bonner-Prendie went 10-11 overall and 5-8 in the Philadelphia Catholic League.
“Just having that player-coach connection,” Cassidy cited as his best trait as a leader. “The relationship with the players. As a coach, you have to be open-minded to the kids and what they go through on a day-to-day basis, especially in today’s world.”
While being open-minded, Cassidy will also look to keep his players focused and committed to the program and its goals. He’ll be bringing along Rodney Duncan, a former Penncrest and Immaculata University player who’s been coaching at West Chester East, as an assistant to help with that. The rest of the staff will be determined in the coming weeks and months.
For now, Cassidy is focused on getting acclimated to his new role and with the returning players at Bonner-Prendie, some of which include Brady Eagan, Deuce Ketner and Jamal Hicks.
The jump to the PCL could be a challenge for Cassidy as he prepares for his first season in 2022-2023, but the newly-minted coach is ready to accept it for a school that holds a great deal of importance to him.
“I’m excited to be a part of the Philadelphia Catholic League,” he said. “I understand the challenge and the tradition that this league has. There’s so many great players, so many great coaches that have coached in the league and so many great coaches currently. It should be a great opportunity for the Bonner-Prendie community, alumni and student-athletes.”