McKnight finds his way back to Hawaii
The former assistant takes a different route in his return to UH's football staff
Dennis McKnight is ready to roll.
After completing a motorcycle vacation this week, the former Hawaii assistant football coach can't wait to bounce back to the Warriors in his new role as a UH graduate assistant. He is expected to arrive several days before players report Aug. 3.
"My last fling before grad school," said McKnight, describing his wide-ranging two-wheel adventure. "It's an 'Easy Rider' kind of thing, biking with a friend up through Vegas, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. There's a little bit of something to that, the old West, being exposed to the elements and nature."
"I roughed it at the Holiday Inn Express," he said.
In his first stint at UH, in 1999 and 2000, McKnight was known for not being picky about accommodations. He slept at the office.
"I can't do it that way this time. I think I'll find a place," McKnight said in a phone interview yesterday. "I liked it the other way because I did creative work when the other people were gone. During the day I'd be talking to people all the time, yucking it up. At night I'd sit there and watch film."
On the surface, McKnight's lifestyle sounds like that of a young man just getting out in the world. Actually, he is a 46-year-old businessman who played in the NFL for 11 years, and is married with two teenage daughters.
"I'm fortunate I have a supportive family and business partner," McKnight said.
His wife, Jodi, will remain at their San Diego home with their two daughters -- as they did during McKnight's first Hawaii stint.
Don Macek, a former San Diego Chargers teammate, will run their car-wash business.
McKnight was an assistant at San Diego State last year, but was not retained when head coach Tom Craft was fired at the end of the season (which ended with a loss at Hawaii). Between leaving Hawaii after the 2000 season and the one-year Aztecs gig, McKnight was an assistant at Grossmont College.
McKnight was a prospect to rejoin the UH staff twice in the past two years, first when special teams coordinator Tyson Helton left in 2004, and then this past spring when Vantz Singletary moved on. Those spots were filled by Mouse Davis and Jeff Reinebold.
McKnight will fill the GA spot Reinebold left. Both are over-qualified for the unsalaried position that usually goes to a young apprentice early in his coaching career. But Reinebold, who was a head coach in the CFL, and McKnight both value the coaching opportunity more than monetary compensation.
"Hawaii's a special place. The kids are awesome," McKnight said. "June's chances of offering me something might be running out. It's a win-win for me. June's giving me a chance to keep my foot in the door. I feel like I'm doing it for the right reason. Lots of guys doing it to move up the corporate ladder. Coaching in its purest form, it's about the kids. And I might even be able to get a master's degree out of it."
McKnight said he looks forward to working with offensive line coach Wes Suan, who is going into his second season in that role after being the running backs coach the first six years under Jones.
"I've had my time in the sun. I'm not working for my ego or to pad a résumé," McKnight said. "Wes is a June Jones guy and I'm a June Jones guy. We're both where we want to be. I loved working with Wes the first time here, but I gained a lot of weight with him last time. We'll have to make a bet that the guy who loses the most weight during the season gets a steak dinner from the other guy."
McKnight said he hasn't been told yet what his job on special teams will be. Last year, Davis was the special teams coordinator, with defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, Reinebold and Suan handling most of the schemes.
McKnight was a big part of Jones' first Hawaii team, the 1999 club that went 9-4 and won a bowl game after the 1998 team was 0-12.
"The '99 team will always be thought of as the one that saved the program," McKnight said. "But this team could be something very special, too. It gives us motivation to get out there and not screw it up. Let's get out there and do this thing."