NOVAK: Knapp, Evans are the best of friends

Published 9:32 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

When you have been on the job as long as I have, you tend to make some pretty special friends.

Such is the case with Brandywine coach Nathan Knapp and Cassopolis coach Ricky Evans.

I have known both of them for more than 10 years, and I have enjoyed watching them mature as coaches.

So, you can imagine how happy I was Friday night when I watched Evans lead his Cassopolis Rangers to a third consecutive district championship, while following along with text updates on Brandywine winning its district championship.

Now, Knapp and Evans, who have been friends longer than I have been working with the both of them, have a chance to square off for a regional championship in Watervliet Thursday night.

Of course, both have to win their semifinals games tonight, which will be no easy task as they face quality opponents in Schoolcraft and Union City.

I have truly enjoyed watching these two develop as coaches over the years. I especially enjoy covering their games when they face each other.

Knapp and Evans have a special connection that goes beyond the basketball court. Their respect for each other is something I would like to see other coaches develop.

Trust me when I say there is no way one takes it easy on the other one when it comes to competition. The friendship is put aside for 32 minutes while their teams battle.

But you can also trust me when I say that both coach their teams in a way that makes sure there is no nonsense during the games.

I have known a lot of coaches over the nearly 40 years I have been covering sports, and I see a lot of animosity among some of them. Rarely do they become friends. And I do not believe any of them have as close a relationship as Knapp and Evans do.

I will be in Watervliet tonight to watch both teams attempt to advance to the regional finals.

I will bet you that both teams will be pulling for the other one. I know that Knapp and Evans will be rooting for each other.

In a perfect world, I will get my dream match-up of Brandywine vs. Cassopolis for the Division 3 regional title on Thursday night.

As a sports writer, you are taught to not have a rooting interest in the outcome of games. But when two class individuals are searching for their first regional championships, you cannot help but be a little biased.

If all goes according to plan and the Bobcats and Rangers face each other on Thursday night, I will be smiling from ear to ear. For me there will be no loser.

I encourage fans from both schools, as well as any area basketball fans of teams have already been eliminated to make the short trip up to Watervliet and support these two basketball teams as they continue their quests for a state championship.

It will be the best $5 you will spend this week.

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at