homepage logo

New BYU men’s hoops assistant all about building relationships

By Darnell Dickson - | Jun 2, 2022

Courtesy BYU Athletics

New BYU men's basketball assistant coach Kahil Fennell addresses questions at his introductory news conference at the Marriott Center Annex in Provo on Friday, May 27, 2022.

Kahil Fennell admitted that before the process of being interviewed for the open BYU men’s basketball assistant job, he didn’t know head coach Mark Pope very well.

It didn’t take long for Fennell to peg what makes Pope tick.

“Coach Pope is a force of nature in a lot of ways, right?” Fennell said at his introductory news conference. “You’re in a conversation with him but it feels more than that. You’re pinging off each other and bouncing ideas off each other. It’s one of the more unique relationships I’ve had in this business.”

It’s takes a special kind of coach to join Pope’s relentless 24-7 approach, and Pope said his research into Chris Burgess’ replacement included more than 100 possible candidates.

“This has been just so important,” Pope said. “This is likely our last chance at having a huge change to our staff as we make this transition (to the Big 12). All of us recognize the gravity of this addition to our staff and that it had to be the right guy. Kahil is exactly the right guy. It was an exhausting and exhaustive process. We had a chance to get better and I’m really convinced that we did.”

Fennell is a native of Oakland, Calif., but grew up in Hawaii. He comes to BYU after spending the past four seasons at the University of Louisville, three as the director of basketball operations and one as an assistant coach. Fennell also spent one season at Portland State under Payson native Barrett Peery and two seasons at UT Permian Basin.

“The success BYU has had in the past three years, it’s just a huge thrill for me,” Fennell said. “Some of the players standing in the back (at the news conference), I can’t wait to work with those guys. I’m really, really excited to be a part of this thing and hope to compete for championships in the near future. That’s what this place is about. Obviously, it’s unique in its standards and what they demand of their student athletes and their staff. I think that makes it a bit more special.”

Pope said it was much more than Fennell’s experience in the Atlantic Coast Conference that earned him the nod for the role.

“”I think Kahil is good friends with everybody,” Pope said. “He’s got a real gift at building relationships with everyone he crosses paths with, because he’s sincere. I think he’s really honest. I think he’s got some real depth to him. I think he’s doing this job for the right reasons. He’s clearly not chasing money, for example, because of the decisions he’s made in his life. He’s chasing something more meaningful. He’s chasing relationships with these guys.”

Fennell said he and Burgess are friends and correctly guessed there might be an opportunity arising at BYU.

“In this business of college basketball coaching there’s just a constantly rotating, churning rumor mill,” he said. “Chris Burgess is a friend of mine and he was professional enough not to tell me he was moving on. But I was just kind of reading the tea leaves and looking into what could happen.”

Fennell joins the Cougars staff, which also includes assistants Cody Fueger and Nick Robinson along with Director of Operations Bobby Horodyski, at a critical time in recruiting as BYU not only has two more spots to fill for its 2022-23 roster but prepares for entry into the Big 12.

“It’s certainly not a secret sauce at all,” Fennell said. “I just try to work really hard at it. I try to be really honest with everybody I deal with, whether it’s the player, his coach, his parent’s circle, everybody is going to know exactly where I stand and what BYU basketball is about.

“I had the same conversation when I got introduced at Louisville where I’m not trying to present a situation that doesn’t exist, you know? They’re going to know exactly what BYU stands for, what’s important to us, the kind of people they’re trying to bring into this program and we’re going to adhere to that. I’m going to uncover every rock near and far here in Utah locally. There are some terrific players here and abroad, where they’ve had tremendous success here in this program.”

Fennell is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operated BYU.

“My family and I are all in on it,” he said. “It’s a situation where it’s not a jarring, shocking thing to us. The tenants that it (the church) teaches like honesty and integrity and things like that, that’s how we live our lives. None of this is out of the ordinary for us. We may not be official members of any religion but as far as how we live our lives and how we raise our family and our kids, that’s very much in line with what we do.

“Beyond the religious aspect, the community is special to me. I think the tight-knit nature of that is special to us as a family. We’re really looking forward to being a part of that and really helping that grows our family, as well.”

Pope said he wasn’t evaluating any of the candidates for the job based on religious criteria.

“What I was evaluating was how he is as a relationship builder,” Pope said. “How he is as a human being and what he values in his life experience was super important. How convicted he is about the things that he cares about. It was just kind of seeing his insides that I think makes him extraordinary. That’s what people feel and that’s why he universally so beloved is because it takes you two seconds to sort of feel his insides. I think he’s able to connect with young people that way. I think he’s able to connect with his peers that way. That’s what makes his so elite.”

Fennell said the next few weeks would be a lot of recruiting and important time spent getting to know BYU’s players and staff.

“I think we’re positioned very well,” Fennell said. “That’s a huge reason why I was excited about this job in the first place. The way Coach Pope and Nick and Cody have recruited and the way they’re just so tenacious about it, their enthusiasm, their energy to do that and recruit at a high level. They’ll dive into recruiting battles with anybody. Some people go after who they can get. They play it safe, but Coach Pope and Cody and Nick, they’re there, they’re going to go to war getting talent.

“I think we’re going to be really well prepared to win games, whether its in the Big 12 or beyond. So I’m thrilled about it.”

BYU and San Diego State men’s basketball series extended

Provo, Utah – BYU and San Diego State have reached an agreement to extend their series for two additional seasons beginning in 2022, both institutions announced Wednesday afternoon.

BYU will travel to Viejas Arena on November 11, 2022, for their 38th overall trip to San Diego, Calif. The Cougars will welcome the Aztecs to Marriott Center in 2023.

BYU and SDSU have met 76 times in program history with the Cougars holding a 50-26 mark all-time.

BYU – San Diego State Future Dates

November 11, 2022 – BYU at San Diego State | Viejas Arena

2023 – San Diego State at BYU | Marriott Center


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)