Brian Kennedy, who has been an assistant men’s basketball coach at NJIT since August 2012, will be introduced as the 11th head men’s basketball coach in program history in a Friday, August 15 news conference on campus.
Coach Kennedy, whose involvement with the sport of basketball literally covers his entire life, is the son of the late Bob Kennedy, a former college and high school coach and the nephew of Pat Kennedy, who was a Division I head coach for 31 years at Iona, Florida State, DePaul, Montana, and Towson.
The Kennedy family business, the Hoop Group, began in the Trenton, NJ, CYO in 1963 with summer basketball camps and moved in 1969 to Cherry Valley, PA, and the Pocono Invitational began.
In 1991, the Hoop Group acquired the Eastern Invitational camp and renamed it the Hoop Group Elite Camp. A few years later, the Hoop Group began running grassroots tournaments and the subsequent years have seen numerous alumni go on to play in the NBA, including Kobe Bryant, Amar’e Stoudemire 2010 #1 overall pick John Wall, 2011 #1 pick Kyrie Irving and 13 other first-round picks that year.
Numerous legendary coaches have lectured at the camp, including the late Jim Valvano and Hall of FamersLou Carnesecca, the late Jim Valvano, Rollie Massimino, Hoop Group Skills Camp Director Bob Hurley,Bob Knight, and Herb Magee.
Brian Kennedy, who played at both Princeton and Monmouth (1990 graduate), took over the family business after graduating from Monmouth in 1990 and was President and co-founder when it was rebranded from the Pocono Invitational to the Hoop Group and became the largest basketball instructional organization in the world.
He entered the college coaching ranks in 1997 as an assistant coach at DePaul on the staff headed by his uncle Pat. There, he was part of one of major college basketball’s great turnarounds, as the Blue Demons, who won fewer than five games the year before he arrived, made the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals in 1999 and then the NCAA Tournament in 2000 as a team ranked in the national Top 25.
“BK” as he is known to his many friends, was involved in all aspects of the DePaul program and was a leader in efforts that brought in a group named as the nation’s top recruiting class in 1998 by The Sporting News.
Among the players he helped bring to DePaul five future NBA players: Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Steven Hunter, Paul McPherson, and Andre Brown.
He stepped aside from coaching from 2002 through 2009, when he worked on Wall Street in the financial sector.
He returned to the Hoop Group as Athletic Director, serving in that capacity from 2009 until 2012, when he joined the staff at NJIT.
In his first year as an assistant, the Highlanders captured their first Division I league title when they were regular season champions of the old Great West Conference.
As with DePaul in his first turn as a college coach, Kennedy spearheaded the recruiting efforts for NJIT and he faced a major task in his first recruiting year, with all three double-figure scorers from the 2012-13 Great West champions graduating in May 2013.
The story is not yet fully written, but that first recruiting class (Class of 2017) and subsequent incoming players have been vital to Highlander men’s basketball reaching unprecedented success.
The extremely inexperienced 2013-14 team finished 13-16, but the two teams since have won a combined 41 games (21 in 2014-15 and 20 in 2015-16), while advancing to the semifinals of the national postseasonCollegeInsider.com Tournament after both seasons.
In addition, the Highlanders won their first-ever game over a ranked opponent when they upset #17/#16 Michigan in December 2014 and they scored their first-ever win over a team from the BIG EAST Conference when they topped St. John’s in December 2015.
Two members of that first recruiting class have already put their names all over the NJIT record books.Damon Lynn, picked second-team all-state (all groups) by the Star-Ledger as a senior at Union Catholic High School, came on board and has started every game the Highlanders have played in his three seasons. Lynn has amassed 1,720 points in three seasons, including a school-record 349 career 3-point baskets.
Tim Coleman came in the same class, entering NJIT after graduating from St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, NJ, where he played for Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley. At St. Anthony, Coleman was a contributor on teams that won New Jersey state Tournament of Champions crowns following his sophomore and junior seasons. In all, the Friars were 93-2 in Coleman’s last 95 career games.
Coleman has grown as a college player, compiling 1,053 points and 548 rebounds through his first three seasons with NJIT.
Rob Ukawuba, a third-team all-state (all groups) pick in the same class, has been a vital contributor as the team’s sixth man the last two seasons, posting an 8.2 points per game scoring average this season.
Brian Kennedy is the proud father of four children: daughters Taylor, Tatum, and Kelly; and son Brian, Jr.
Photo Courtesy NJIT Athletics