When Chad McKnight was appointed Guildford Heat’s player-coach back in early July, the review was mixed. How would the 6’8 forward be able to take Guildford to the same levels that his predecessor, Paul James did, maybe even higher?
Paul James was heavily regarded as one of British Basketball’s more successful coaches. He left the Surrey based club, and they bring in a man, who has no real experience of coaching. To add, Guildford lost their main marksmen, E.J. Harrison and Keonta Howell. Since joining the BBL, the Heat have, in three out of four seasons, competed in the British Basketball League’s Finals Weekend.
At this time of writing, Guildford Heat lay in fifth position with a very credible record of seven wins and four losses, and to add to that, Chad McKnight’s troops are unbeaten at home. Not bad for a rookie.
The Lancaster native remains modest though about his start: “All this is still new for me, but so far, so good. Right now though, there are still things that I am getting used to with this player-coach position and I knew that I wasn’t going to get everything right the first time” explained Chad.
Two seasons ago, Guildford were representing Great Britain in European Basketball’s second string competition, the ULEB Cup – now named the EuroCup. At the time, McKnight was playing his basketball in Leicester, for the Leicester Riders. But the urge to return to the South was too strong and he re-joined the Heat the following season.
Chad was thankful for his time at the Riders, but when he returned to Guildford, he was hungry for success. A hunger he still carries even-more-so, as a coach: “I want to be successful in everything I do, and I don’t want to sound outlandish or crazy about what my goal was, but I wanted to win everything possible.” McKnight confidently saying, “I figured that if I shoot for the best, then that’s the only way you will know if you’re going to be the best. If I said that I want to be a mediocre team, then that is all you will do, even at your best.”
Yes, the goals of the Morehead State forward were of a very fast-forward nature, but the big man has a point. If you shoot for the best, then you will know if you belong with the best. And after what most British Basketball loyalists were saying about him last season, that he was not anywhere near his best. He has answered back with hard-working and game winning performances – all while acting his duties from the bench as well.
One of the new tasks over the summer for Chad was to pick a squad. Something he felt was second nature to him: “It’s definitely an advantage I have, being a player-coach because I know what style of basketball I want, so I have looked for players that can fit my style, which is fast-pace, so I’ve been looking for guys that can run and players that can jump.” He explained. The two Americans that Chad brought in, Aaron Drakeford and Kenny Langhorne are new to the British Basketball League. But have earned their stripes and, in return, have produced some consistent performances. And while, they might not be on the same level as previous Heat Americans, such as, Daniel Gilbert, Keonta Howell and Guildford Heat legend, Brian Dux. McKnight is rightly happy with who he has.
“I simply explained to them [Langhorne & Drakeford] how it was going to be. Me being here for four years helped explain it to them easier – then it is up to them and how they feel. I think it will take a little more time for them to settle, but they have settled in nicely so far.” He said.
Guildford Heat are in a solid placement in the league, and while Chad is settling in nicely to his new role – he remains honest as ever – as he isn’t thinking too much ahead, rather concentrating on the present day: “I’m not really sure, really.” He said, with a look of a man in deep thought. “They always say that your first season is your hardest, making the transition to a coach. And I am still getting used to it all, but for next season, I really don’t know what will happen. I want to play this season out and see how it works, but there are things that I miss, and that is just playing, but at the same time, I like being a coach – being able to develop kids and be positive about Guildford’s future. So there are some positives, but also there are some negative points as well.”
Chad McKnight, currently is signed to a one year contract to be player-coach. And while he is enjoying his coaching role – could it be a one off for the Guildford fan favourite?
John Hobbs for talkbasket.net
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