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Maryland men’s basketball assistant coach Brenton Petty was ready for his moment

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Petty started this season as video coordinator, but has taken on an even greater role.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

If you stay ready you don’t need to get ready. That may be a cliché that’s thrown around in sports, but for Maryland men’s basketball video coordinator and assistant coach Brenton Petty, it’s a mantra he lives by.

It’s what’s shaped his basketball career – from playing to coaching.

Petty went to Fordham University for undergraduate school where he started as a team manager. One of his roommates who was on the team sprained his ankle, so Petty was asked to practice. Petty proved himself in practice that day and was asked to become a walk-on after.

From there, Petty was eventually named team captain and started a game at the Division I level.

Stay ready so you don’t need to get ready.

The motto is what’s prepared him for the ride he currently finds himself on: as an assistant coach at the front of the bench for a major college basketball program.

This past summer, Petty was named video coordinator for Maryland by former head coach Mark Turgeon. But in what’s been a chaotic and unusual season for Maryland’s coaching staff, where two of the top-four guys on the staff – Turgeon and assistant Bruce Shingler – didn’t make it halfway through the season, interim head coach Danny Manning and the entire staff have had to take a next-man-up approach to coaching.

That’s where Petty comes in, who is getting the opportunity of a lifetime operating in a role as an assistant coach and video coordinator at just 25 years old. He’s cherishing every moment, and while he hadn’t yet had the elevated responsibilities he now has, he knows, and has proven to himself this year, he’s more than capable of the task.

“I’m always preparing myself for the next opportunity, I’m always thinking ahead and I feel like this year is no other,” Petty said.

When Petty’s playing career was over at Fordham, he wanted to stay in basketball. He began sending his resume out, emailing, and cold calling various schools. Finally, the University of Maryland — just a short drive away from his hometown Washington D.C. — came calling.

In 2018, Petty was offered a graduate assistant spot, a perfect chance for him to get into coaching while also receiving his master’s degree.

As a graduate assistant, one of his official duties was managing player development. But his role was much greater than that. Petty is a gym rat and cherishes the moments working guys out in the gym, which includes some late nights and early mornings.

Petty was the guy anyone on the team could get in contact with anytime of the day and he would be there to work them out, rebound or whatever he could do to help. Those countless hours in the gym are when Petty developed his relationship with some of the recent stars to come out of College Park.

Some of those players included Aaron Wiggins and Jalen Smith, both of whom currently play in the NBA. Petty considers Wiggins and Smith two of his best friends.

“They were fortunate enough to kind of believe in me and be in the gym with them every day,” Petty said.

Coaching is a relationship business. Which is why it hasn’t taken long for Petty to make his imprint on the profession.

Petty understands the importance of relationships, not just in basketball but life. It’s a big part of how he operates as a coach and helping hand. In fact, it’s one of the primary reasons Turgeon cited for bringing him back on as video coordinator last spring.

It’s not only the hours spent in the gym that’s allowed Petty to build meaningful relationships, but also how close he is to these players in age.

“That’s what makes this business so great,” Petty said. “Not only are you connected with guys when they’re on your team, but you’re connected with them when they go off and grow and are in the NBA or playing at a different school.”

“It just shows like, damn, like I really meant something to them for them to still stay in contact with me,” Petty said.

Players see his work ethic and how much he gives to the program that it’s hard not to respect him. Senior guard Eric Ayala joined the program as a freshman the same year Petty came in as a graduate assistant and has had a front row seat for the ride.

“I was here when Brent was here a few years ago and just to see his growth, definitely proud of him,” Ayala said. “Definitely just happy to be a part of his journey.”

After Petty finished his master’s program in 2020, the year Maryland captured a share of the Big Ten regular season title and COVID came that cancelled the rest of the season, he started looking for other jobs. Because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, there wasn’t a lot of hiring going on, but Petty was sure he wanted to work in basketball.

Through his responsibilities as a graduate assistant dealing with NBA personnel, Petty got to know a bunch of people in the association. In 2020, Detroit Pistons general Manager Troy Weaver gave Petty an opportunity to work in the Pistons’ front office with the scouting department.

Working with the Pistons was an invaluable experience, but when Turgeon called after the season was over and offered him the position as video coordinator, he had to return to the place he called home.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, but they [the Pistons] knew Maryland was home for me,” Petty said. “I’m from the D.C. area, born and raised… just being home near my family and stuff like that was a big factor…. I think it’s well worth it, being able to have the opportunities I’ve had this year.”

Interim head coach Danny Manning, another guy who was thrusted into a role he didn’t expect to have at the beginning of the season, has applauded Petty for the job he’s done in what Manning describes as a “dual role,” serving both as video coordinator and full-time assistant coach.

“He’s got a great opportunity. Not too many times you can walk into a coaching staff and get a dual role and you get to spread out and put some things on your resume,” Manning said. “Brent’s done a really good job. … I think it’s been good for him; I think it’s been good for us, and it’s worked out well.”

As a graduate assistant, along with constantly working out players, Petty had to watch other teams’ film and figure out their play calls.

As video coordinator, Petty broke down film in a more elaborate way. He was tasked with breaking down the offense and defense of opposing teams, not just specific plays they ran. He would then give that information to the coaching staff to present to the team.

In both positions, Petty’s role in practice was relatively limited, mostly just rebounding and passing. When Petty was elevated to an assistant this season, his position became far more essential. He now talks with guys and brings them along during practice and even watches film with them.

“I went from being just like a workout guy and rebounding to, now, I’m like a coach,” Petty said.

As for game preparation, Petty is now responsible for his own scouts. On most college coaching staffs, for each game an assistant is assigned and in charge of the scout. That assistant is tasked with taking the lead on scouting the opposing team, watching film, constructing a game plan, and presenting all that information to the team. Assistants take pride in winning games where they are the lead scout.

Petty was no longer handing that work to another coach to present to the team. Halfway through this season, with Big Ten play fully underway, he was the one standing in front of the team and relaying the game plan.

Petty has handled several scouts this season, including Northwestern, Rutgers, Nebraska and Ohio State.

“His first scout was a win, and I was just like ‘dang, bro. I got to witness your first scout of your coaching career,’” Ayala said.

Petty acknowledged the pressure that comes with the job, especially at a program as prestigious as Maryland. The most high-pressure scout for Petty was Ohio State because the 2002 national championship team was there and honored during the game. The result? A win for Petty and Maryland.

This season hasn’t been easy for anyone involved with the program. Any season has its share of lows and highs, but this year has had way more lows than highs for Maryland. That hasn’t deterred Petty one bit. He’s taking advantage of a unique opportunity.

“I know how important I am to the staff, and I am to the players. At the end of the day, wins and losses are important, but we have to be here for the guys,” Petty said. “It’s been a good challenge and I’ve really embraced it.”

As the season concludes with the Big Ten tournament tipping off this week, the future of Maryland’s program is murky, it put it mildly, which means so is Petty’s. But he hasn’t been thinking too much about the future, rather just enjoying the ride and gaining a wealth of experience.

There’s only one thing that’s certain: Petty will have a lot more experience coaching at a high-level program than most 25-year-olds in the industry.

“It’s really just an amazing experience and I never thought I would be in this position, being able to sit on the front of the bench at the age of 25,” Petty said. “I’m just blessed, man.”