Column: It is an honor to call Bobcats’ Knapp my friend

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

PORTAGE — I have known Brandywine Coach Nathan Knapp for the 18 years he has been the boys basketball coach of the Bobcats.

I have watched as Knapp has developed from a young man trying to find his way as a first-time head coach. There were some rough times in the early years as he worked to create a style that would turn the Bobcats into a perennial winner.

At times early on, I wondered if he was the right man for the job. But I never questioned his desire to be a good coach and a leader of young men, nor did I ever question his work ethic and his quest to make Brandywine one of the best teams in southwest Michigan.

Knapp truly knows the meaning of the phrase “things are the darkest before dawn,” because just when it looked like his time was running out, things began to click for the Bobcats.

Suddenly, the wins started to add up. Then came some conference and district championships.

The Bobcats were on a roll. I watched as Nate’s confidence in himself grew, and his players’ confidence in him also grew. I have seldom been prouder of anyone I have had the opportunity to work with.

One of the things that I noticed, and I am sure others who follow the program saw, was that Knapp was not only building a powerhouse, but he was building a family. I have been around a lot of programs over my four decades of covering high school sports, I have rarely seen the type of cohesiveness that I see in this Brandywine program.

These players and coaches genuinely love each other. The Bobcats are on a historic run to the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University because they care deeply for each other. They do not have egos that get in the way of their success. Every player on the Brandywine roster, from the starting five to the last player on the bench that gets in for a few minutes here and there, is vested in this team’s success, and they do not care who gets the credit.

One of the things I have noticed about the Bobcats, as they have continued to get better and better each season, is that they play hard. They play smart, and they take pride in playing stifling defense, which they have learned, helps create offensive opportunities.

I can honestly say that I am not surprised by the family atmosphere that surrounds the Brandywine program. The school itself is a tight-knit community and supports all of its athletic teams, academic achievements and extracurricular activities.

I am also not surprised because the Knapps are one of the most caring and giving families I have ever had the pleasure to know. I have covered Nathan and Kim’s children, who have all excelled both in the classroom and on the court. I have rarely seen the type of love and affection shared so openly by others.

To be honest, we need more Knapps in this world.

For the past 40 years, I have enjoyed covering high school sports. It is my passion. The wins and losses do not matter to me. I love going out to games and watching our young people give everything they have toward a common goal. There is no greater teacher of how to deal with success and adversity than high school sports. No greater teacher of how to get along with people who are different, have different beliefs, or come from different social and economic backgrounds.

I also love getting to know their families and the coaches I deal with regularly. It has made it easy for me to get up and want to come to work because this is not a job. I am blessed to be able to live by the Confucius’ saying “Chose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Even better, I am able to call a person like Nathan Knapp, my friend. That is truly one of my biggest blessings.


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