By Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson
When you talk about a guy that lives, breathes, eats and sleeps hoops, Brevin Knight fits the bill.
The 16th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 5’10” Knight has been compared to shorties like Muggsy Bogues and Earl Boykins. Just like those two, dude has always been a pesky defender and was even the league leader in steals his rookie year in the NBA.
After playing under legendary coach Bob Farrell at Seton Hall Prep High School in West Orange, NJ in 1994, Knight was not heavily recruited by many major universities. He ended up getting a scholarship at Stanford University where he was the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year. During his career at Stanford, he was named a Consensus second-team All-American in 1997 and was also a three-time, first-team all-Pac-10 member. Not bad for a guy who was the fourth ranked point guard coming of the Essex County, NJ high school hoops scene.
“I used basketball as a way to get me to a place that I would not normally go to,” Knight told Jake Brown and myself when he appeared on our Brown and Scoop Podcast on CBS Radio’s Play.it.
In the NBA, Knight had a 12-year career with nine different teams, which included two stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, the then-Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. He averaged close to 8 PPG and 6.1 APG, but it was his defense that was his calling card, averaging close to two steals a game. Having spent a huge portion of his career as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Knight empathizes with Cleveland fans whose city has not won a championship in a major professional sport since the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship in 1964.
“I still have a lot of love for Cleveland,” he said. “They treated us great. We went to the playoffs my first year. Unfortunately the lockout was the next year and so it kind of hindered how good that team unit could have been. and then from there [Coach Mike] Fratello gets fired and a lot of things happened. But the city, the people there, they love sports. They are super fans of their sports and especially if you love the city and you give that back you feel it from them.”
A favorite in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and disappointed in the NBA Finals last year by the Golden State Warriors, some experts see 2016 being the year that LeBron James and company can deliver a championship to The Land and Knight would also like to see it.
“I would love to see them come up with a championship,” he said. “I would not mind for the Cleveland Cavaliers and for the fan base and as rampant and supportive that they’ve been for that organization to have one.”
Speaking of Cleveland, Knight thinks the world of former coach, ‘The Czar,’ Mike Fratello and according to the point guard, Fratello was one of his best coaches.
“On one hand, he could be an ass,” Knight joked. “He was the type of guy that would get on you, but at the end of the day, you knew he had your best interest at heart and the team’s best interest.”
Knight was a lightning rod on a team that included Wesley Person, Cedric Henderson, Derek Anderson, Bob Sura, Shawn Kemp, Vitaly Potapenko and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a young squad on the rise. Being young had its challenges in practice sometimes.
“We would have yelling matches,” said Knight. “We would go back and forth because I wouldn’t agree with something and I was strong-minded, strong-willed, and I thought I knew exactly what our team needed and he thought he knew. At the end of the day he’s one of the best X’s and O’s coaches that I ever played for and the best preparation coach that I ever played for.”
Knight retired in 2009 and is now the Memphis Grizzlies’ color commentator on FOX Sports Southeast. Talking about a team that features Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on both blocks and speedy guards Mike Conley and Mario Chalmers, isn’t such a bad gig post-retirement. Currently sitting at 32-23 and fifth in the NBA’s Western Conference, Memphis doesn’t get the fanfare that a red-hot Golden State Warriors or even a Tim Duncan/Kawhi Leonard-led San Antonio Spurs get and Knight thinks its better that way.
“When you’re a small market team, people are not going to talk about you on a regular basis,” he said. “It doesn’t bother us and it doesn’t bother our team at all because we just go out and win games. We stay under the radar. They don’t need as much media hooplah as the other teams. It’s just about going out there and winning games. It’s a grind it out city, it’s a grind it out team, so we’re accustomed to being thought of later.”
A huge trend in the NBA these days has been the influx of recently retired players like former New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jason Kidd becoming head coaches with limited on the job experience. Knight comes from basketball royalty himself, his father, Melvin was an assistant coach on Bill Raftery’s bench at Seton Hall University during their hey-day. Brevin’s brother, Brandin Knight, who once lit up the Big East a decade ago at the University of Pittsburgh is now an assistant coach at Pitt. Brevin has not been approached by an NBA franchise about the possibility of coaching, but acknowledges that if the right situation came along, he’d consider it. Knowing that today’s NBA climate heavily surrounds brands and social media, which differs vastly from his playing days, it seems the strong coaching of Mike Fratello may have rubbed off on him:
“I’m old school,” he said. “If you’re not playing well, I’m going to sit you down. I’m not in the business of babying you.”
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. You can catch him daily on CBS Radio Play.it’s Brown and Scoop Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit www.ScoopB.com.