Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Sitting Wednesday in one of eight locker rooms set up at the First Niagara Center for the NCAA Tournament, Kyle Neptune didn’t appear ready to take a trip down memory lane.
He didn’t have the time. Not with Villanova, for which Neptune is an assistant coach, preparing to take on Milwaukee in the Round of 64.
Just over a year ago, Neptune was an assistant to long-time Niagara Purple Eagles coach Joe Mihalich on a 2012-13 team that won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title and earned a bid to the National Invitational Tournament. Now he’s working to help the Big East regular season champion Wildcats succeed on college basketball’s biggest stage.
“It’s not much different,” Neptune said. “Everyone’s goals are the same, to be the best you can possibly be. The arenas are a little different and you might be on TV a little bit more, but there’s the same connection with the (players) and trying to get better every day.”
Neptune’s ties to the strong Philadelphia college basketball scene led to his joining Mihalich at Niagara in 2010. A basketball player at Lehigh University, Neptune caught on with Villanova for three seasons as an administrative intern and video coordinator before leaving for Monteagle Ridge.
When Mihalich left to take the head coaching job at Hofstra, Neptune followed. The Brooklyn native spent six months helping Mihalich rebuild the Pride before Villanova coach Jay Wright came calling.
“There was just an opening,” Neptune said. “I’m part of the Villanova family, and it just so happened the coach called me. I went down to interview and it worked out.
“The good thing about Villanova is that it is a family. (Wright) has a big coaching tree with a lot of people in it. He values the family nature, and it just so happened that it was my turn.”