The Fairfield University men’s basketball program added two members to its coaching staff this past week, adding a veteran coach and a recent Stag graduate to help out interim head coach Chris Casey.
Casey announced last Thursday, Oct. 26 the inclusion of veteran coach Glenn Bairca and former Fairfield standout Taj Benning ‘21 to the staff for the upcoming season. The two bring a dose of experience and familiarity, as the program seeks to move past the abrupt resignation of former head coach Jay Young.
Braica, a Queens College alumnus, most recently served as the head coach of St. Francis College in Brooklyn from 2010 until 2023, when the program was disbanded. He amassed 177 wins as head coach of the Terriers, which included a 23-win campaign in 2014-15 that saw the program secure the Northeastern Conference (NEC) regular season championship as well as punching a ticket to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
The 23 wins that season were the most the program had since the 1953-54 campaign. The Terriers additionally qualified for the 2019 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CBI) after posting 17 wins in 2018-19.
Prior to assuming head coaching duties at St. Francis, Braica worked as an assistant coach for St. John’s University, serving under head coach Norm Roberts from 2004 until 2010. Roberts and Braica played together at Queens College, forming a lifelong friendship that led to the selection of Braica to Roberts’ coaching staff. He also served as an assistant coach at St. Francis for fifteen seasons, from 1989 to 2004, and at New York City Tech for one season after his graduation from Queens College in 1988.
Just like Coach Roberts, Coach Casey and Coach Braica are also close friends, which is why Casey is entrusting Braica as a valuable resource to his coaching staff.
“I have known Glenn for a long time, and his teams have always been well-prepared and difficult to play against,” said Casey, according to the hiring’s official press release. “He brings a wealth of experience and basketball knowledge that will be beneficial to our student-athletes on game days as well as in the practice gym and film room.”
A former Fairfield Stag, Benning returns to the men’s basketball program after graduating in 2021. In his five seasons as a Stag, Benning appeared in 145 games, the second-most check-ins in program history. Only former teammate Jesus Cruz ‘21 stands in front of him in games played.
He ranks 28th all-time in total points, accumulating 1,175 in his five-year collegiate career, as well as recording over 500 rebounds and 200 assists. His leadership and class helped lead Fairfield to Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship game appearances in both 2018 and 2021. Cruz was also part of the men’s basketball staff during the 2022-23 season as director of men’s basketball operations.
“I can’t think of a better ambassador for Fairfield University than Taj Benning,” Casey said, according to the hiring’s official press release. “It was a privilege to coach him for three seasons as he developed into a consummate competitor and leader. I am thrilled to have him on our bench to begin his coaching career back here at Fairfield.”
Prior to launching his coaching career, Benning spent one season overseas in Australia. He suited up for Cockburn of the Australian NBL1 league this past season, averaging 16.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in the process.
The Stags will kick off their 2023-24 regular season campaign against the Boston College Eagles on Monday, Nov. 6. They will tip off in their first contest at Leo D. Mahoney Arena the following Monday, Nov 13., against Mount Saint Mary College. For more information about the Fairfield University men’s basketball program, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com.