One of Mississippi's premier baseball minds is coming to Jones College.
Longtime successful prep coach Larry Knight has been named the new pitching coach by the Bobcats. Knight replaces Blake Beck who recently accepted a job at Tennessee Tech.
Knight will begin his duties at Jones College in October.
Bobcat head coach Chris Kirtland is thrilled to have Knight on board.
"Number one, coach Knight is an excellent leader of men," he said. "His coaching record over a long career of winning championships shows his dedication and the impact he has on his players. There are many aspects of the program where he will have a positive influence, but we are thrilled to have him here to develop our pitchers, something he has a serious track record of doing."
Knight, who recently retired after serving as head coach at Sumrall High School for 14 seasons, is excited to be joining the Bobcat program.
"First of all, I've been coaching high school baseball in this area for almost 30 years and I've always had the utmost respect for the college here at Jones and the people who have worked here, especially with the baseball program," he said. "I've always been very impressed with the facilities, which are second to none. In my eyes Jones had the lead on that before any of the others and those baseball programs kind of followed up.
"They've had tremendous success over the years and, of course, coach Kirtland is a great guy and has done an outstanding job in leading the program. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of this and try to maintain the tradition here and take it even further."
Knight's record speaks for itself.
In 27 seasons as a head coach, Knight has compiled a 695-204 (.773 winning percentage) record.
Knight recently retired after serving as head coach at Sumrall for the past 14 seasons. He posted a 374-96 record with SHS, including five MHSAA state championships, eight South State titles and 13 division crowns.
Prior to going to Sumrall, Knight was head coach at Hattiesburg High School for 13 years, leading the Tigers to a 321-108 mark with four state titles, six South State crowns and eight division championships.
He was named USA Today High School Coach of the Year in 2010 and National Coach of the Year by both MaxPreps and EA Sports in 2009.
He was most recently selected as Pine Belt Sports and Sports 601 Baseball Coach of the Year.
The Hattiesburg High School graduate was an All-Conference pitcher at William Carey University for three of his four seasons and was named an All-American during his senior year.
He graduated with a bachelors degree in mathematics and signed with the Atlanta Braves. After playing two years with the Braves and the Detroit Tigers organizations, he returned to William Carey and earned his ME degree in secondary education in 1990 with special emphasis in mathematics.
Knight began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at William Carey in 1989 with the nationally ranked Crusaders advancing to the regional playoffs in both of his seasons there.
He then went to Petal High School as an assistant coach for three years, helping the Panthers to a Class 4A state championship in 1991 before becoming the head coach at Hattiesburg in 1994.
Now, Knight returns to the collegiate coaching ranks for the first time since his days as a GA at William Carey.
"It's something I kind of had an itch for over the years," he said. "I have three boys. My oldest played at Ole Miss and is now coaching at East Carolina. My middle son is finishing up at West Florida and played junior college ball at East Mississippi. Just to be able to watch them and follow them in the college ranks kind of perked my interest in coaching on this level.
"But from a standpoint of having a family and younger kids, it's not always the easiest thing to do. I've got my youngest son who is a junior at Sumrall so it wasn't easy to leave there. However, I think this is an opportunity where God opened up the door at the right time. I am looking forward to working with the next stage of athletes. In high school, sometimes you may not get all of the focus from the players and of course, sometimes you may not get it at this level. But for the most part they know they are here to compete for a job and win and develop."
Knight said even after retiring he knew he wanted to stay involved with baseball. He is happy the opportunity to come to Jones occurred.
"Once I retired, I was just going to see what my options were," he said. "I knew I was going to have to continue to work and I knew I was going to continue to stay around the game. I actually was doing some travel ball work this summer with Traction Sports with Hattiesburg Clinic. We formed some travel teams and I was kind of looking to see if that would be the direction I was going. I was just looking to see where the next step was going to be.
"Then this job just kind of opened up and coach Kirtland and I started talking about it several weeks ago and here I am."
Kirtland stressed that Knight brings more than just baseball knowledge to the table.
"He is someone I've always respected and admired," he said. "His reputation throughout the state of Mississippi speaks to what kind of a Christian, family man and baseball coach he is."
Knight is happy to continue working in baseball and is also excited about recruiting prep athletes.
"I'm looking forward to not only working with this type of athlete, but I'm looking forward to the recruiting side, too," he said. "Over the years, I've developed a strong relationship with a lot of high school coaches throughout the state and I'm looking forward to talking with them and seeing their guys play. To me, that's always been something that's appealing. In high school, you play the cards you are dealt and in college, you can pick and choose.
"From my standpoint, not only is Jones a great college, they also have great tradition with baseball. Hopefully, with the excitement with things around the program, we can get some winners in here and be able to play some good baseball."
He is married to the former Pam Robbins, who is also a Hattiesburg High School graduate. They have three sons: Austin (27), Alex (23) and Andrew (16).
Knight and his family are members of Hattiesburg's Temple Baptist Church where he serves as a deacon.