Officially promoted to the position this week, Brandin Knight, 26, was the video coordinator in 2006 and the director of basketball operations last season at Pittsburgh. The former All-American's playing career ended in 2003 with two NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances, two Big East regular-season titles and one Conference Tournament Crown on his resume.
"It's been a lot of fun working for Coach Dixon and all the different coaches here,'' Knight said. "It's great to be able to learn from all of them. They all have something to offer. Coach has put a lot of faith in me now.
"I don't want to let him down, and I'm going to work as hard as ever. So, I'm really excited about the task ahead of me. I feel that I'm ready to dive in and do a great job. I'm more than ready to do that.''
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon had faith in Knight from their initial meeting.
"When he was a player, I always said that he was a coach on the floor,'' Dixon said when Knight joined the staff. "He's the smartest player I've coached.''
While Knight certainly was an integral part of the Pitt coaching staff the past two seasons, his work days will be much different as a full-time assistant coach.
"Being the director of operations consisted more with administrative work such as organizing meetings and community service,'' Knight noted. "As an assistant coach, I'll be able to work more closely with the program and interact much more with the players. I also can recruit with the other coaches.
"I really look forward to that. I've tried to form great relationships with all the current players, and hopefully I'm able to extend that to younger players who will then want to come play for us at Pitt.''
While it hasn't been mapped out just yet, it's a good bet that when recruiting heats up in July, Knight will be responsible for areas in New York and New Jersey. Knight grew up in East Orange, N.J., is the son of a basketball coach and has many contacts in both states that are hoop hotbeds.
"I have some pretty good relationships with programs up there that I played for and played against,'' Knight said. "I'm sure I'll find my niche. (But) the key is to find a comfort level for the player and his parents, and once that happens we should be able to get the player to come to Pitt.''
While Knight could not leave campus to recruit in his previous positions, he likely played a role in bringing 2008 freshman Ashton Gibbs to Pitt. Gibbs is from West Orange, N.J., and both played for Seton Hall Prep school.
"I've known Ashton since the fifth or sixth grade, and we've maintained a great relationship since then,'' Knight noted. "A big part of Ashton coming to Pitt was because his family felt comfortable with the university and felt it was a great place for him to be able to succeed.''
By promoting Knight and not bringing in an assistant from outside the program, the Panthers were able to get a coach that basically could hit the ground running. In situations like this, Pitt gets a seamless transition for its coaching staff that has taken more than a few hits the past few years.
"The coaching turnovers in our staff are a result of how great our system is,'' Knight said. "This is a great place to learn about coaching. ... Eventually, my ultimate goal is to become a head coach, but in the coming months I'll just try to soak up as much knowledge as I can about being a great assistant.
"And I can tell a player and his family exactly what it's like to be at Pitt because I've experienced everything that they'll experience. So, I can give them first-hand knowledge about the university and the basketball program.''
Former Pitt assistants Barry Rohrssen and Mike Rice offered Knight full-time coaching positions on their staffs at Manhattan and Robert Morris, respectively, but he turned those down to remain at his alma mater.
"I never really pursued those because I love Pitt,'' Knight said. "I think it's a lot easier to recruit for a place that you know. You know what to expect. You know the climate, and you know the atmosphere of the program. I know what I need to do here, and I don't need to be told what to say about Pitt.''
Knight added that his most memorable accomplishments at Pitt were winning the Big East Tournament titles as a player and coach, but the most recent stands out more.
"Winning the title as a player was great, because we had come so close the two previous seasons,'' Knight said. "It was a huge burden off my back. But winning it as a coach was satisfying because you see your players succeed after all the hard work they put in. You're kind of like a proud father in that regard.''
But what can the Panthers do to take the next step, advancing past the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, and what can Knight do about it?
"I guess there's a thought that we place too much emphasis on winning the Big East Tournament, but that's absurd,'' Knight said. "We just haven't been fortunate enough to get past the Sweet Sixteen, but we're right there. We're very close. ... The one thing about the NCAAs is the different variables. The pace of the game, how physical the refs allow you to be, things like that.
"But only one team is happy at the end of the season. They want to crucify Coach Howland at UCLA because he hasn't won a title. He's been very close, but they think he needs more talent. ... We've run into some teams that have played really well against us. Marquette, Michigan State this year. So, we're getting closer all the time. We just have to keep plugging away.''
Along with his Big East and NCAA appearances, Knight played in three consecutive Big East title games (2001-03), and the Panthers recorded an 89-40 (.690) four-year record during his tenure. A 2003 Wooden All-America team selection, 2002 Associated Press All-America pick and two-time All-Big East honoree, Knight concluded his career with 1,440 points, 785 assists, 492 rebounds and 298 steals.
Knight earned the Big East's co-Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player awards after leading Pitt to a 28-5 record during the 2001-02 season. Knight holds school records for career assists (785), career assist average (6.2 per game), career steals (298), season assists (251 in 2001-02) and season minutes played (1,284 in 2001-02).
Brandin Knight Looks To The Future
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