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McKnight calls an audible

Newport Beach cop is leaving the force to join the sidelines of JSerra High as a football coach.

April 07, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com
  • Lt. Scott McKnight with the Newport Beach Police Department is retiring from the department after 28 years to coach football at J Serra in San Juan Capistrano.
Lt. Scott McKnight with the Newport Beach Police Department… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

NEWPORT BEACH — If you ask Scott McKnight, it's less like a retirement and more like moving to a new team.

On June 1, when the Newport Beach police lieutenant walks away from the department after 28 years, he'll be turning in his badge and uniform for a clipboard and whistle with JSerra Catholic High School football in San Juan Capistrano.

McKnight, who turns 50 this month, will coach the budding program's defensive backs and special teams.

"It's a full swan-dive. I'm starting one and finishing another," McKnight said. "You have that from a lot of officers. They want to be part of a team. Oddly enough, that's what's bringing me to my next career."

On the surface, going from cop-to-coach may seem like an unexpected turn, but McKnight has pulled double-duty before, coaching in the day and policing at night.

"I'm not someone who needs a lot of sleep," he quipped.

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He worked with junior varsity players at Mater Dei High School and coached his son's Pop Warner team in Rancho Santa Margarita.

His son, Scotty McKnight, 23, broke receiving records at the University of Colorado and will likely get drafted by the NFL, according to media reports. He currently lives with his friend, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

McKnight's also about to become a grandfather. His daughter, Shannon, 26, is expecting.

McKnight studied horticulture at UC Davis, where met his wife of 28 years, Cathy. He transferred to Cal State Long Beach and earned a degree in occupational studies, but didn't finish the horticulture work.

Considering becoming a police officer like his brother and father, who both work in Los Angeles, he applied and was hired by the NBPD.

He's worked in seemingly every capacity available in the city, from patrol to training to narcotics.

But it was in narcotics with the planning, or "scheming" as he calls it, the studying your suspects and ultimately making arrests, where McKnight had the most fun.

"When you work as a narcotics officer, you've got to prepare for whatever the result and, at some point, you get to put it into play," he said. "It's a cat-and-mouse thing."

Not unlike, say, football.

"I found something to replace that kick [from narcotics work]," he joked. "I coach with passion and police with passion."

McKnight will just be on the gridiron at first, but said he hopes to eventually land a job teaching leadership courses there.

"I think any good coach is a good teacher," he said. "When you do anything with passion, it's hard not to succeed."

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