OTTAWA, Kan. – Ottawa University Director of Athletics, Arab Conner, is pleased to announce the hiring of Donovan (Dony) McKnight as the new head men’s and women’s tennis coach. McKnight takes over a women’s program that won the 2021 KCAC regular season title and finished third in 2022. The men’s program placed second in 2021 and fourth in 2022.
“Coach McKnight rose to the top of our search quickly with his preparedness and contagious passion for coaching,” said Conner. “He’s an up and comer and we’re anxious to see what he’ll build with our tennis programs. We believe that with the foundation in place on which to build, including key players returning for next year, the future is bright. Coach McKnight clearly has the drive and skills necessary to recruit and fill our roster slots while coaching up our current talent.
Before coming to Ottawa University, McKnight was the assistant men’s and women’s tennis coach at Maryville University in St. Louis, Mo. for the 2021-22 season. He helped the men’s team to a national ranking in NCAA Division II with wins over the University of Missouri – St. Louis, University of Illinois Springfield, and Drury University, all program firsts. McKnight helped lead the women’s team to a Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) tournament appearance and four conference wins. As an assistant coach with the Saints, he performed administrative tasks for the program, including travel arrangements, Front Rush compliance, budgeting, fundraising, and overseeing the team social media accounts. McKnight also recruiting three student-athletes to the program.
“I want to thank Arabie and the search committee at Ottawa for this opportunity,” said McKnight. “Becoming a college head coach has been a goal of mine for the past several years and I am extremely grateful to have been given this chance to build a championship culture at this university. I am beyond excited for this challenge!”
McKnight also worked as an Assistant Tennis Professional at Forest Lake Tennis and Swim Club (January 2021 to May 2022) and the Saint Louis Country Club (October 2020 to May 2022). While working at those clubs, he built a clientele, conducted clinics and private lessons for tennis, pickleball, and paddleball. McKnight ran match play sessions and fitness drills. He planned, directed, and executed junior programs for both tennis and paddleball. McKnight also helped with college placement for academy students.
In addition, McKnight worked for the St. Louis Blues as the NHL20 High School Championship Project Coordinator from January to May of 2020. He assessed different opportunities for the Blues to establish a presence within esports. McKnight recruited high school hockey teams to the St. Louis area to participate in competitions and served as the team representative. He set up the tournaments and ran operations for games in which select teams were participating.
McKnight served as a teaching pro at Vetta Racquet Sports Sunset from May 2019 through August 2020. He helped plan drills and prepare national level players, based in the St. Louis area, for tournaments. McKnight also worked at the John Newcombe Tennis Academy in New Brunfels, Texas as the Work-Play pro from June to August of 2018. He was also the Match Play Director at Kings Point Sports Club in Belleville, Ill. From June 2017 to February 2020.
Outside of tennis, McKnight worked for the Abstrakt Marketing Group in St. Louis, Mo. As a business development representative from May of 2019 until March of 2020.
McKnight was a member of the Maryville University men’s tennis program (2018-21) and graduated in May of 2021 from MU’s Rawlings Sport Business Management program. He was on the Dean’s List six semesters and earned his MBA with an emphasis in marketing from MU in April of 2022.
While a student at MU, McKnight was named to the ITA All-Academic Team in 2020, he was a Multicultural Scholar, participated in the Multicultural Scholars Peer Mentor Program, mentored the Most Outstanding Freshman Scholar in 2019-20 and the Most Outstanding Scholar in 2020-21, and he created discussions that discussed social justice.
“I owe a great thanks to coach David Reinhart and all the tennis players at Maryville University for everything over the past five years,” said McKnight. “Everyone, including myself, who was involved with that program was able to create more value for themselves as individuals as a direct result of the team. My vision is to create a similar environment at Ottawa where young people can come to our program and leave as better people as a result of being here.”
McKnight began his duties at Ottawa University on June 13.