April 15, 2016
NJIT welcomed Brian Kennedy as the new head coach of the Highlanders men’s basketball team in a press conference at Weston Hall on Friday, April 15. Kennedy is the 11th head coach in the program’s history.
Brian Kennedy has served as the assistant coach since August 2012, under previous head coach Jim Engles, who accepted a head coaching position at Columbia University earlier this month. During Kennedy’s time as assistant coach at NJIT, the Highlanders won the regular season championship of the formerly Great West Conference in the 2012-2013 season. The Highlanders reached the CollegeInsider.com Tournament semifinals in both 2015 and 2016.
“We’re going to continue to recruit the way we have always recruited,” said Kennedy. “First and foremost, we’re going to recruit students, then we’re going to recruit athletes. I think we’ve proven not only to the New York-Metropolitan area, New Jersey, and the whole country that you can receive a world class education here at NJIT and also play one of the top national schedules against some of the best teams in the country, as far as basketball is concerned.”
Kennedy attended Princeton University and then transferred to Monmouth University, where he graduated from in 1990. At Monmouth, he served as team captain and was the leader in assists both his junior and senior year.
“As a player, he had his teammates’ respect as a person first, but he was also a very good player, which added to the respect,” said Wayne Szoke, Kennedy’s coach at Monmouth University. “As a captain, he usually made his point in a mild-mannered way, but because of the respect they had for him, his teammates listened.”
Kennedy was an assistant coach at DePaul University from 1997 to 2002, where he recruited five future NBA players: Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Steven Hunter, Paul McPherson, and Andre Brown. During his tenure, DePaul was in the 1999 NIT tournament and 2000 NCAA tournament.
“Brian Kennedy has been such a big part of bringing us to where we are today,” said Director of Athletics Lenny Kaplan. “He has been a key force in our recruiting and development of our current student athletes on our basketball team.”
“I had a chance, not only to meet Brian recently, but over the years, and I have always found him very focused. It was the first part of our conversation,” said NJIT President Dr. Joel Bloom. “What about the team? What about the students? Where do you see this going?”
Kennedy worked in his family’s business, The Hoop Group, which is the world’s largest basketball instructional organization. He served as the President from 1990-1997, and as Athletic Director from 2009-2012.
After his tenure in DePaul University, Kennedy stepped away from the basketball scene and worked on Wall Street in institutional equities and as a financial advisor.
During Kennedy’s tenure at NJIT, the Highlanders earned their first ever win over a ranked opponent in 2014 against #17/#16 University of Michigan. This previous season, the Highlanders earned their first win over a team in the Big East conference, defeating St. John’s in December 2015.
“Brian genuinely understands that it takes a team effort to get things done and he’s been a huge part of building the team culture that brought us success,” said Engles. “He’s prepared to keep that going and he’s ready to meet the expectations because he’s been such a big part of what’s created the expectations.”
“It is a transition from being the assistant coach to the head coach, no question about it,” said Kennedy. “While the continuity of the program is going to stay the same, Jim [Engles] and I are different people and I’m going to be myself. One of the things I’d like to do with my players is to instill the utmost confidence in [them].”
The whole NJIT community is looking forward to Brian Kennedy bringing the Highlanders men’s basketball team to greater heights.