Antoine Pettway on Kennesaw State men’s basketball: ‘We are not starting over’

Credit: Photo provided by Kennesaw State

Credit: Photo provided by Kennesaw State

Antoine Pettway had something to say.

He took to the podium after he was officially introduced as the new men’s basketball coach at Kennesaw State on Wednesday. Amid his remarks, he looked straight at the group of current players gathered at the Convocation Center and delivered a message. It was a message he shared with the team Tuesday and wanted to do so again, this time for everyone to hear.

“I know change can be difficult,” Pettway said. “I especially know it can be difficult when you achieve success and then you feel like you have to start over a little bit. We are not starting over. I challenge you to maintain the championship mentality, on the court and off the court, in the classroom and in the community. Everywhere people see you, I want you to still be champions.

“I give you my word, I will work hard for you. … You got me. I’m going to pour everything I have into you, and we are going to do amazing things together. I give you my word on that.”

Pettway was announced as the eighth men’s basketball coach last week. He takes over for Amir Abdur-Rahim, who left after four seasons for South Florida. Kennesaw State is coming off its most successful season in school history, including an ASUN Conference regular-season and tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Pettway spent the past 15 years as an assistant coach at Alabama. Collin Sexton, one of the players he helped coach at Alabama, was in attendance. A Pebblebrook High star and former eighth overall pick in the NBA draft, Sexton now plays for the Jazz.

Kennesaw State athletic director Milton Overton had a list of attributes he wanted in the next Owls basketball coach. He listed them Wednesday: Student-centered leader, high family values, respect for talent in Georgia, well-rounded coach in direction and recruiting and a tireless work ethic.

“Trying to make sure you have someone who can pour into our young men, who will put them first, and to make sure we can maintain the level of momentum that we have,” Overton said. “We have great momentum and we are ready to continue to fly.”

Overton said Pettway is known as a top recruiter in country.

Credit: Photo provided by Kennesaw State

Credit: Photo provided by Kennesaw State

Pettway was a walk-on with an academic scholarship at Alabama before earning a scholarship for his sophomore season. In his career, he helped the Crimson Tide to an SEC championship in 2002 and three NCAA Tournament berths, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2004. After a short professional career in the NBA Developmental League and the World Basketball Association, Pettway was a graduate assistant at Alabama (2005-06) and an assistant coach at Jacksonville State (2006-08) before returning to Alabama as an assistant.

“I want to play fast, and I want to be in attack mode for 40 minutes,” Pettway said. “I want to push pace. I want to force teams to play our tempo. Our guys will play with extreme freedom and confidence. With that freedom and confidence comes responsibility. A responsibility to work hard every single day. A responsibility to get in the gym when no one is watching and give it your all every single day. For this to work, he have to be one of the hardest playing and one of the hardest working teams in the country. This is going to be our recipe for success.”

Kennesaw State will have a roster with a strong returning core next season. Starters Terrell Burden and Demond Robinson committed to return. While Chris Youngblood (South Florida) and Brandon Stroud entered the transfer portal, the Owls expect to add to the roster.