Rutgers men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell appears to have made another great hire in a series of great moves over the span of just over a week, as 247 sports and Jerry Carino are reporting that Brandin Knight will be hired as an assistant coach. Knight would join new associate head coach Karl Hobbs, former Stony Brook associate head coach Jay Young, as well as Dan Rickard and Bryan Dougher from Pikiell's staff from Stony Brook, whose roles are yet to be announced. And per Carino, Greg "Shoes" Vetrone will stay on in an advisory role.
Knight is a rising star in the coaching profession after serving as an assistant at Pitt under former head coach Jamie Dixon since 2008. Dixon left Pitt in March to become the head coach at TCU and Knight interviewed to replace him. Pitt ended up hiring Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who did offer Knight a spot on his staff but as the #2 assistant, as he brought his longtime assistant Tom Richardson with him to Pitt. Knight was Dixon’s top assistant the past few seasons and instead decided to come home to New Jersey and work under Pikiell at Rutgers.
Knight grew up in East Orange, New Jersey and was a star player at Seton Hall Prep in the late nineties. He went on to become a legend at Pitt, where they retired his #20 jersey after becoming an All-American. Pitt was a losing program before Jamie Dixon took over as coach and brought Knight there to be his star player. He is the school’s all-time assists and steals leader and led Pitt to two sweet sixteen appearances during his career. After a brief professional run as a player, Knight went back to Pitt to begin his coaching career.
Pikiell needed to make a splash in hiring an experienced and respected top assistant who can coach and recruit well. He did so first with Hobbs, then Young and now with Knight, who brings instant credibility to Rutgers and will help signal that positive change is occurring with the program on the recruiting trail. At Pitt, Knight gained a reputation as a great recruiter and has many contacts in both New York City and New Jersey. Knight’s ability to coach and mentor the backcourt will be crucial as well. Knight is credited with being instrumental in the development of former Pitt players such as All-American Sam Young and All-Big East guards Levance Fields, Ashton Gibbs, and Travon Woodall. Knight's official bio from Pitt is here. Woodall spoke highly of Knight in this article:
"He has these connections where he can find a kid in the deepest part of Mississippi, he can find a kid in the deepest part of New York, wherever," Woodall, a St. Anthony High School grad, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He has so many connections. And after the parents and the players meet coach Knight, he might have to cut players off. ... Everyone wants to come play for him."
In another article written last week, the father of All-SEC Vanderbilt guard Wade Baldwin IV had high praise for Knight's recruiting abilities. Although Pitt did not land his son, which he explains further in the article, they would never of even had a chance without Knight's efforts.
"Brandin knows all the coaches in New Jersey and New York. Coach Stallings doesn't know that area that well, as far as recruiting, where Brandin does," said the elder Baldwin, whose son starred at St. Joseph High in New Jersey.
"I probably talked to over 50-60 schools during my son's recruitment. He was the best recruiter. What he did put Pitt in the top five."
Coach Pikiell now has Knight along with Hobbs and Young, forming the most experienced staff that the Rutgers men's basketball program has possibly ever had. Carino also reported that Greg "Shoes" Vetrone will stay on as an advisor, another wise move by Pikiell. Shoes brought Corey Sanders, Deshawn Freeman, and Jonathan Laurent to the banks, and gained a commitment from 2016 3-star recruit Issa Thiam. It's likely the entire roster stays in place now, and there is optimism Sanders will return. Adding the 6’9" Thiam is key if he stays committed, as he is an intriguing wing prospect with deep range and a sweet stroke from behind the arc. Keeping Shoes, even though it's not in a recruiting role, is a positive development for the immediate future. With bringing Knight into the fold, Pikeill is already delivering on what he talked about during his introductory press conference in March:
I have a motto every day: Did Rutgers basketball get better today? It has gotten better the last four days, I promise you. It will continue to get better in the upcoming months. In the next few weeks we'll be announcing some staff. I think people will be very excited. Blue-collar, guys that work, guys that have great reputations, guys that want to be here.
With Brandin Knight joining associate head coach Karl Hobbs and longtime assistant Jay Young on coach Pikiell's staff, Rutgers absolutely got better today! This is a superstar group of assistant coaches and one that has the ability to rebuild the program the right way and restore respectability in the near future. Add in the fact that Pikiell has a hall of fame coach in Jim Calhoun as his unofficial consigliere, and it's clear Rutgers is finally playing for keeps. The embarrassment of riches on Pikiell's bench is a sign to all local high school and AAU coaches, the Big Ten, and fans alike that the rebuild of the Rutgers men's basketball program is off to a flying start!