After Chris Burgess left to his alma mater at Utah in April, BYU has hired former Louisville assistant Kahil Fennell as a new assistant coach. Fennell was on the Louisville staff for four years — the first three as the Director of Basketball Operations and last season as an assistant. He was not retained after Louisville parted ways with Head Coach Chris Mack.
Prior to Louisville, Fennell spent a year as an assistant at Portland State under Barrett Peery. Before that he was an assistant coach for two seasons at Division 2 Texas-Permian Basin and a High School Basketball Coach. He played one season at JUCO Penn State New Kensington then played 3 years at the University of Redlands where he graduated in 2004. He worked in the medical device industry for 10 years before getting into coaching.
Fennell is married and has two sons.
D1 basketball schools are allowed 3 assistants, so BYU has its assistant positions filled with Fennell, Cody Fueger, and Nick Robinson.
I like the hire of Fennell. I first mentioned his name as a candidate on April 13 when the news of Chris Burgess leaving became public and he was a candidate as soon as the opening became available. Going into the Big 12, having racial diversity and a mix of LDS and non-LDS coaches on the staff will be important. Fennell checks those boxes and brings coaching and recruiting experience from the ACC.
Fennell first came to Provo the night of May 17 and spent the whole day on campus on the 18th where he formally interviewed for the job. He did not have an offer before that, and BYU also brought other candidates on campus to interview over the last couple weeks, one of those being a G-League coach. The Salt Lake Tribune story came out on May 11, but that was just the day after Fennell’s background check from BYU came back good. He had not formally interviewed before that, visited BYU campus, or been offered the job. BYU brought multiple candidates to campus the next week. Fennell came to BYU campus again earlier this week where he completed additional interviews. All told, he interviewed with Pope, AD Tom Holmoe, BYU President Kevin Worthen, and other BYU Athletic administrators. Fennell impressed coaches enough over the last few weeks to beat out other candidates BYU was vetting. In the end, sources tell me the chance to work with and learn from Mark Pope was one of the main reasons why he took the job.
“I really try to harp on honesty and (openness) and having a real relationship. I don’t try to sell, I don’t try to tell you something that’s not true, I don’t try to create some scenario that exists at Louisville that’s not in reality,” Fennell told the Courier .
“If you’re approaching your own players in the way that we do, which as far as relationship-building and having something tangible and real off the floor, I don’t think it needs to be this fire drill at the end of the season where you’re recruiting your own guys. I think if you’re doing that, you might be doing things incorrectly, in my opinion,” Fennell said.
“I think you need to have a really good feel for where guys stand in the lead-up to that point. I think you have to feel really comfortable with your relationship with your own players. So it’s not like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s the end of the year. Let’s start to make these guys like us again.’ I think you get yourself in a really bad spot and I think you’re missing the boat on what makes this job great.”