It all started on a little league baseball field.
With his father as his coach, Richard Casali wished he could be like him someday.
Many years later, the Framingham State volleyball coach has 300 collegiate career wins.
Casali claimed his 300th win on Oct. 15, in a league game against MCLA.
“It really didn’t hit me when I won it. The other coach said congratulations and I said, ‘thanks.’ She said it again and I said, ‘yeah thanks, what’re you talking about?’ Casali said. “Then I turned around and they were all holding that banner. I started crying a little bit.”
The banner he spoke of was one made by his players to celebrate the milestone and is hung up on the wall in his office.
“Coach Casali deserves all the recognition for putting up with 16 young women, and all of our daily troubles. He devotes a lot of his personal time throughout the day to better our team,” sophomore Alyssa Cafarelli said. “He truly cares for the team and treats us like one of his own, so the least we could do was get the 300th win for him.”
He also keeps both the ball from the game that was signed by the players, and an official 300-win ball, on his shelf that acts as a trophy case.
But his case is different from others, as it features team photos from each year he’s coached. As evident from the fact that he places those photos ahead of his awards, the longtime coach considers his personal achievements secondary to the connections he has with his players.
“Coach has been very welcoming from day one. From my very first time meeting him, he and his wife were already offering to make me a homecooked meal,” Cafarelli said. “Coming from Arizona and living 2,277 miles from home, Coach knew I was going to have a difficult time adjusting and has always been there for me. Not having my parents close by can be difficult, but I am lucky to have coach and all of the support he continues to give me throughout my years here at Framingham.”
Cafarelli was recruited by Casali himself from across the country, which shows his dedication to making the program the best it can be.
He even keeps the connections he builds with his players long after they’ve graduated.
“A girl that played for me just called and said she’s pregnant,” Casali said. “I said, ‘I’m a Grandcoach.’ I’m very excited about that.”
Another player of his that he holds a deep connection with is his Assistant Coach.
“He is a mentor and a friend, but more like family. He has been in my life for the last 15 years. Even in the offseason, we meet once a month for breakfast and talk volleyball. How can we make the team better and how can we push them to be the best team they can be,” Assistant Coach Chelle Manganello said. “We both truly care for all of our players, past and present, but Coach has a great relationship with all athletes at Framingham State.”
Manganello played under Casali at Framingham before becoming his Assistant Coach in 2007.
The two met in the summer of 2004.
“We had spoken a few times prior to my senior season, but he knew I worked right down the street, so he decided to stop by and introduce himself,” Manganello said. “The rest is history.”
But, before starting his career as the volleyball coach at Framingham State, Casali was playing with some friends by the university’s athletic center as a kid.
He grew up just a mile and a half away from the school, and later went on to become a student at the University in 1972.
That was when he first began coaching.
With intramurals being prominent in that time, Casali coached the intramural volleyball team and led them to a championship win.
They then were invited to Westfield State, who was a Varsity team, and as coach says, “they killed us.”
“I said, I wanna be like that, I wanna win like that,” Casali said.
He then coached the team in local leagues for more competition.
After matches and practices, they would go into a bar and go over game plans with saltshakers and glasses.
He carried this into Bellingham College, where he saw his next coaching job.
Following that, Casali ended up at Dean College as the softball coach, before being asked to coach volleyball at Framingham State.
“They asked me to interview more than once, and I didn’t want to. I finally came and parked down by the bottom of Maynard,” Casali said. “I walked around and saw the campus again and was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s like falling in love. From there, I said if they offer me the job, I’ll do it for nothing.”
Thankfully, he got paid to do the job.
What followed is 305 career wins, a school record for any sport at Framingham State.
He also has four Coach of the Year awards, 10 MASCAC Post Season appearances, four MASCAC Regular Season titles, four MASCAC Post Season titles, two ECAC Post Season Tournament appearances, and four NCAA Tournament appearances.
Casali will look to continue etching his name into history as he will be entering his 17th season at the helm of the Rams’ volleyball team in the fall.
“It’s been the best experience of my life,” Casali said. “At my age I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t having fun.”