Is Anthony Grant the Right Choice for Alabama?

T.L. PellmanSenior Analyst IMarch 24, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  Anthony Grant head coach of the VCU Rams talks to the team during the game against the UCLA Bruins during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Wachovia Center on March 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With the NCAA tournament ending its second week, the focus of Alabama basketball fans has begun to intensify when looking at who will replace the recently-released Mark Gottfried.

The names offered up range from young coaches who have very little experience, to some with a few years under their belts in mid-major conferences, all the way up to names on the lips of every basketball fan across the country.

Those in the Alabama Athletic Department who are responsible for this search have maintained it's something they are going to do quietly.  That's definitely been the case, as evidenced by nothing more than educated guesswork by the national and state media.

In fact, it's so secretive that some writers have resorted to using phrases like "breaking news" when making a guess that Alabama might contact a coach about the open position. 

Other media outlets have gone as far as to publish the "list is final" without any basis other than opinions offered by fans around the Internet and water cooler.

Tom Izzo and John Calipari are names that would be the "big splash" Tide fans would like to see.  Realism meets a mirage is more than likely the case with either candidate.

A segment of fans seem to be in a full court press to push the name Mike Anderson to the top of the list.  While that's not the topic of this editorial, one does have to address that notion, albeit briefly.

I would support someone like Mike Anderson in the position.  But I also feel there are more qualified candidates that would be willing to listen if Alabama approached them.

Personally, all I want is for the university to explore all the options available.  What I question are those locked into hiring a guy because he is from the state and has worked at a school in the state.

Sure, Anderson has made an impressive run this year at Missouri, but I also look at a guy like Sean Miller and see consecutive runs that demonstrate to me an option just as viable, if not more so.

The name most frequently associated with the position so far has been Virginia Commonwealth's Anthony Grant.

Grant's name became prominent in the basketball circles of the NCAA first as an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida. 

At Florida, he was one of the assistant coaches credited with some of the high profile recruits they signed that eventually led to the Gators National Championship run (that point is somewhat debatable, with some pointing to Donald Jones as the main recruiter).

He was again at the forefront of conversation with Florida when Donovan explored his job options in the NBA, only to remain in Gainesville.

Grant's resume is impressive if you put it in terms of where he is coaching and what they've accomplished.  Since 2006, he's led the VCU program to two postseason appearances in the NCAA tournament, though never past the second round. 

In the one year he didn't make the NCAA field, the VCU program received an invitation to the NIT, only to fall out in the first round. The program also won the regular season title but lost in the conference tournament.

With three conference titles to his credit, his current record stands at a winning percentage of .760 (76-24).

However, with this track record of success he's enjoyed, is he the right guy for the Alabama position?  Is the record at VCU reflective of his ability as a head coach or a by-product of the system Jeff Capel put in place before taking the head coaching job at Oklahoma?

A question that is even more important, would Grant be an improvement over the Gottfried years, or is Alabama setting themselves up to repeat those years under a different coach?

The similarities in the two coaches, Gottfried and Grant, seem to be enough to make any Bama fan pause, if only for a second.

In the past three years, Grant's record sits at 76-24. Gottfried was hired after leading Murray State to a record of 68-24.

Grant's teams have been to the NCAA tournament twice, the NIT once. Gottfried's team at Murry State? The same.

Conference titles? Both coaches won them while spending a few years at a mid-major program.

Working with a successful coach and on a National Championship team? Again, the same story with both men.

So, what separates the two men? More importantly, what would make Grant the right choice for Alabama?


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