University High and Christian Life Academy are located just a few miles apart. It wasn’t the proximity that prompted UHS assistant basketball coach Stephen Dale to follow CLA.

“Christian Life was a school I’ve had my eye on for a few years as a possible destination,” Dale said. “They’ve won six state titles since 1996 and have a great tradition. The idea of coaching in a program like that is something I’ve been interested in.”

Class 1A Christian Life affirmed its interest in Dale on Monday, hiring the 27-year-old as its boys basketball coach. Dale, an assistant at 2A U-High for six years, was one of 12 to 13 candidates the Crusaders considered.

“We did a round of interviews and cut it down to three finalists,” CLA Athletic Director Kerry Wilkerson said. “All those guys were very similar. One of the thing that made coach Dale attractive was the fact that he was local and was coming from a successful program that we were familiar with.”

Dale replaces Mark Cascio, who left CLA to accept the head coaching position at his alma mater, Catholic High, earlier in the spring. Casio led the Crusaders to the semifinals this spring and the 1A state title in 2012.

CLA and UHS both advanced to the semifinals this season.

The CLA job is the first head coaching position for Dale, who spent two years as a volunteer coach at his alma mater, Metairie’s Archbishop Rummel, before moving to Baton Rouge and U-High. He inherits a Christian Life team that returns several key players, including 6-foot-4 all-state and all-metro player Johnathan Stove.

“This won’t be a rebuilding job,” Dale said. “There are several returning starters and talent already in place. I’m excited about getting started.”