Mater Dei boys basketball coach Gary McKnight

Mater Dei's McKnight nominated for Naismith Hall of Fame


Gary McKnight has received many awards in his 34 seasons as Mater Dei’s boys basketball coach.

This week, he was nominated for another one that would top them all.

McKnight is a nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Finalists will be announced during NBA All-Star Weekend in February. Inductees will be announced April 4, the day of the NCAA men’s championship game.

His Mission Viejo home and his Mater Dei office already are decorated with many prestigious plaques and trophies, including two from the Naismith hall – in 2014, McKnight received the Morgan Wooten Award for Lifetime Achievement in Coaching High School Basketball and was that year’s Naismith High School Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

There have been national coach of the year honors and many CIF-Southern Section and CIF State coach of the year awards.

Where would a Hall of Fame award rank?

“It would be at the top of the list,” McKnight said. “To be recognized by those people would be very special. I feel very honored, and very old.”

McKnight, 63, has a 1,035-90 record at Mater Dei. His Monarchs teams have won 11 CIF State championships, a California basketball record, and 22 CIF-SS titles. Mater Dei has won 32 league championships since McKnight became Mater Dei coach in the 1982-83 season.

Reviewing some of the other nominees, players like Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson and Michigan State coach Tim Izzo, McKnight said, “There are some pretty big-time names on that list.”

Another nominated high school coach is Steve Smith of Oak Hill Academy, at Mouth of Wilson in Virginia. Mater Dei plays Oak Hill on Jan. 18 in the HoopHall Classic at Sprinfield, Mass.

Mater Dei (11-0)  beginning Saturday plays in the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina.

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