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Panthers' Knight earns coaching award

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North Pitt girls' basketball coach William Knight.

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Friday, January 18, 2019

William Knight is known for his success with the North Pitt girls’ basketball program, including a bringing a state championship back to Bethel in the 2017-18 season. For his efforts, Knight was recognized as the North Carolina coach of the year in girls’ basketball by the National Federation of High School Sports.

“I was caught by surprise,” Knight said Thursday, of learning about receiving the award. “The staff here knew it before I did, and it caught me by surprise. It still really hasn’t sunk in yet.”

While claiming the state title and receiving this honor are important to him, Knight uses another measuring stick to determine success.

“It’s not all about the wins and awards that you get,” he said. “It’s about the players that I coach. It’s about that once they leave high school and I finish coaching them, that they turn out to become successful people. I don’t believe I am a coach of the year, a person of the year, until I see that from a player that I’ve coached.”

Knight’s mantra of aiming to create better people as well as better ballplayers has helped keep him in touch with several North Pitt alumni.

“One of my moments this fall after winning the state championship was hearing from Alyssa Kerns (now at Notre Dame of Maryland University), playing volleyball and becoming rookie of the year for (the Colonial States Athletic Conference),” Knight said. “I also got a call from Nyjanique Langley after her exams and her first semester (at Cape Fear Community College). She called and told me she had a 3.5 GPA. That means more to me than anything to see former players and current players accomplishing their dreams.”

Knight is also one to instill critical life skills into his players based upon his experiences. Knight, who grew up in the middle of the civil rights movement, saw his inspiration begin one day when watching a North Carolina basketball game, and Charlie Scott in particular. Scott was the first black scholarship athlete at UNC.

Legendary UNC coach Dean Smith was also an inspiration to Knight, for giving Scott the opportunity to play for the Tar Heels.

Scott and Smith sparked a dream in Knight to one day also suit up and play for his favorite school. While he never played for UNC, he did accomplish his goal of being in the Heels’ home last March when his Panthers beat North Wilkes, 63-42, in the 2-A championship game in Chapel Hill.

“I wanted to play there (Dean E. Smith Center) as a kid, but just to go there and play in a gymnasium, a coliseum with his name on it was a blessing,” Knight said. “I didn’t get to play there, but I got to coach in an arena with his name, and it didn’t resonate until after the state championship.”

Knight is also one who believes that dreams can come true in more ways than one. He described a moment of realization just before the beginning of the title game.

“I tell kids now that you have to know the difference between seeing a blessing and looking for a blessing,” Knight said. “I asked the assistant coaches to take the players back into the tunnel because we had some time left. I just sat on the bench and said my prayers, and thought about my mom and all the things she taught us.

“After I finished saying my prayers and before the game, to look up and see 23 blessings coming out of that tunnel, I almost lost it then. Plus we had the opportunity to win the title. You just have to learn to see instead of look.”

Knight will continue to push this team NP (9-5, 1-0 Eastern Plains) toward the state playoffs while also looking to accomplish his primary coaching goal.

“I don’t know the definition of a successful coach,” Knight said. “I’m not successful until those players succeed, and that’s my goal. My biggest goal is making an impact on people.”

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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