Reunited: Brunt joins Rhoades’ staff as an assistant

Assistant coach Jamal Brunt joined the VCU men's basketball staff last season. CT file photo

Noah Fleischman 
Staff Writer

Fifteen-year coaching veteran Jamal Brunt joined the Men’s Basketball coaching staff in the offseason after three seasons at Miami. This season will be Brunt’s second coaching under Mike Rhoades — the first since Rhoades’ days at Randolph-Macon College.

The Randolph-Macon graduate played for Rhoades and the Yellow Jackets from 1999-2003 and was part of two NCAA Division III Sweet 16 appearances in 2002 and 2003. He served as a captain of the 2002-03 team that went 28-2 and reached the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

“I’ve known [Rhoades] for a majority of my adult life,” Brunt said. “He recruited me to Randolph-Macon in my senior year of high school. He went from recruiting me to being my head coach for four years and then working with him for two years [as a graduate assistant].”

After graduating, Brunt served under Rhoades for two years at Randolph-Macon as an assistant coach. During his two years on the Yellow Jackets’ coaching staff, Brunt was part of all aspects of coaching, from player development and recruiting to watching game film.

Brunt came to the city Richmond in 2005 and joined the staff of Richmond as the director of operations. He served in that role until being promoted to assistant coach in 2007 and associate head coach in 2013.

Two years later, the Baltimore native left central Virginia and took his talents to South Beach to become an assistant coach at Miami. In his three seasons with the Hurricanes, Brunt reached the NCAA Tournament three times and made a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2016.

“I would say that the things I can bring with me from working with [Jim] Larrañaga [at Miami] was just the amount of time that you need to spend with the players,” Brunt said. “Really working with players with not only the physical aspect of the game, but the mental aspect of the game.”

Brunt also helped the Hurricanes recruit one of the top classes in the country for the 2017-18 season by signing three ESPN Top-100 players. In addition to recruiting, Brunt served as the head of Miami’s offensive scheme. He led the Hurricanes to a nationally-ranked, top-15 offense during the 2015-16 season. That team averaged 75.2 points a game and shot .749 from the free throw line.

“I think the level of intensity that goes in to have success in the [Atlantic Coast Conference], you understand and figure out ways to pull the best out daily for [the team] to achieve success,” Brunt said. “I think that experience and being able to coach and compete at the highest level, you learn a lot of little things that you can apply to help [the players] grow and develop.”

In the past, Brunt has helped develop some of the nation’s top college basketball players including the Hurricane’s 1,000-point scorer Davon Reed and the Spiders’ Justin Harper, who was drafted 32nd overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011.

Brunt returns to Richmond this season, replacing associate head coach Jeremy Ballard, who was hired at Florida International University in the spring. When Brunt saw the opening at VCU, he thought he would be a match for the job.

“I look at [Rhoades] more as family than my coach. He’s seen me grow as a person and my family grow,” Brunt said. “I’ve been a part of his family since the time I played for him. It was a very easy decision [to come to] a place like VCU with tremendous basketball success and tradition, it really matched.”

When Brunt steps on the court at the Siegel Center for the home opener against Gardner-Webb, he looks forward to being on the home side.

“Having the opportunity to have a great fan base like VCU cheering for you and help push your guys forward,” Brunt said. “Playing in a great place like the Siegel Center night-in and night-out, that will be fun.”

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