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Assistant Will Bailey reunites with another coach, this time to return to SLU

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SLU beats U Mass 90-59

The Billikens' Gibson Jimerson passes the ball in a game against Massachusetts on Jan. 23, 2022, at Chaifetz Arena. 

It should have come as no surprise to Will Bailey that when St. Louis University had a spot open on its coaching staff that he would get a call from Travis Ford.

Bailey managed to make repeat appearances on the staffs of two previous coaches before being hired for his second stint with the Billikens this month.

After playing for coach Murry Bartow in the 1990s and then serving a season as a graduate assistant at Alabama-Birmingham, Bailey departed only to be asked by Bartow several years later to join his staff at East Tennessee State.

And after working as an assistant coach for John Giannini at Maine, the two were reunited when Giannini hired Bailey as an assistant at La Salle.

“I look at it like I made an impression and they liked working with me,” Bailey said. “I’m blessed and fortunate that I had an opportunity to work with these guys and learn different systems. Now I come back to another place that I know.”

Bailey was an assistant at SLU during Ford’s first four seasons before leaving to join the staff at South Carolina with coach Frank Martin. He went with Martin to Massachusetts in the spring, but it wasn’t long before another reunion was in the works.

He arrived in St. Louis in time to join practices in preparation for SLU’s trip to Spain and Italy, where the Billikens will play three games in August.

Bailey’s return was made possible when Ray Giacoletti retired after two years. His presence not only links him back to Ford and assistant coach Corey Tate but to second-year assistant Phil Forte, who was a grad assistant for the Billikens from 2017-2019.

The Chicago native was about to work for his third Atlantic 10 Conference program, having put in a couple of months at UMass in the spring and early summer. In fact, he returned to Amherst, Mass., this weekend to pick up some belongings.

“Frank asked me to come with him, and we hit the ground running and brought in some pretty good players,” Bailey said. “But even when I took the job, (Martin) said if there was something else that made sense, he wouldn’t hold me back from it. Then Ray retired and obviously SLU was like home. I was here when Travis took the job and helped build it.”

Bailey returned to the same office in the Chaifetz Arena complex with the same desk. The office even still has some of the same photos on the wall, including one of Javon Bess, who he has kept in touch with.

And he will be coaching some of the same players he left, including Yuri Collins, Fred Thatch Jr., Gibson Jimerson and Javonte Perkins.

“I’m seeing a lot of guys who were the young bucks before I left and now they’re all veterans and grown up,” he said. “It’s great to see how they’ve grown and matured. When I was here before they were all wide-eyed and trying to figure things out.”

Like many assistant coaches, Bailey had some impressive moments during his playing days that are little known. He was team captain of UAB’s NIT team in 1997 and was named the Blazers’ top defensive player. In junior college, his team was ranked No. 1 for a time and he led the country in assists.

Bailey said he had a chance to learn some new things working with Martin. However, his first season at South Carolina was the shortened and restricted COVID season in which the Gamecocks were sidelined at one point for 39 of 41 days without a game.

In his second season, South Carolina improved significantly but Martin was fired. In essence, it could be said that Martin was yet another coach with whom Bailey was reunited when Martin took the job at UMass.

“He knew the relationship I had with Travis and the program, and also with this being closer to home,” said Bailey, who is from Chicago. “I know how Travis operates and the system is in place. It’s like I never left.”

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