Alabama's New Basketball Coach: Who is Anthony Grant?
By Terry Pellman
Sunday night, at 6PM CST, University of Alabama's Athletic Director is scheduled to formally announce the new basketball coach for the Crimson Tide, Anthony Grant.
The last few days have been an interesting ride, albeit a quick one.
A question may have been answered when it comes to those that follow the athletic programs. We either have a fan base that has become lackadaisical over the last few years expressing their feelings and support of Alabama basketball.
Or, and I'll admit I'm tempted to lean this direction, we have a fan base that is prone to find things to complain about and do so under the guise of "being a fan of a particular sport."
The lack of those expressing their opinions about the search wasn't to be found this past week. The lack of fans that looked at the situation with our coaching search logically was found—and found in abundance.
For now, I'll choose to quietly dismiss the inane grumblings all the time knowing they'll resurface eventually.
For now, as we await Sunday evenings press conference it seems like an opportune time to look past the hiring process and look at the man who was hired.
Who is Anthony Grant?
Looking around the SEC at the reactions of rival fans has been an interesting past time the last 12 hours.
Commonly seen is, "Well, I'm glad they didn't get Mike Anderson." I find that reaction entertaining at its best.
On the flip side of that coin, if Alabama were to have pursued and landed Anderson, I'm sure I would have read two things.
One, the phrase, "I'm glad they didn't get Anthony Grant." And two, perhaps most importantly because it would have a bearing on how this search was conducted, would be the statement, "Good luck to the Tide in graduating players."
It's a new hire that isn't as publicly spoken of as Nick Saban's hire in January of 2007, but it is a hire that rivals around the SEC can't ignore despite their expressions that it hasn't created an interest on their part.
After all, this is the same coach that was considered the replacement to Billy Donovan when he flirted with the NBA's Orlando Magic two years ago. That, after all and according to their opinions then, was a solid replacement.
Hey, let's not forget this is the same coach that both LSU and South Carolina pursued one year ago only to be told no in the end. This was also the same coach said to the the "apparent leader for the Georgia job" as well.
Perhaps, one of the many coincidences this hire has with Nick Saban's, is it's another coach that the state media told Alabama fans, "you'll never hire him."
But, since I've used Nick Saban's hire a few times as small examples already, I thought it would be prudent to follow that train of thought and see where it takes us.
Often criticized by those on the outside, sometimes by those from our own inner circle, Saban's personality is "all about football." It's a very business-like approach, serious, with little room for frivolity.
Grant seems to be of the same mold. About the only jokes that come from the practice courts are those told after players have moved on to their post-collegiate careers.
“Guys used to joke that they didn’t want to be at Coach Grant’s end of the court for individual workouts,” said San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner, who played at Florida from 1999 to 2003.
In fact, the serious approach Grant takes in life isn't just limited to his professional life - it hasn't just seeped over to his personal life, it's a staple there. So prevalent, it was something his wife Christina mentions as a trait that attracted her to him early on.
“The no-nonsense personality he shows when he coaches carries through when he’s at home with our kids,” Grant’s wife of 11 years, Christina, said with a chuckle, acknowledging that Anthony’s serious demeanor attracted her to him.
Coach Saban often talks about things that are "beyond their control" when it comes to off-the field distractions. He's one whose focus is on the task at hand—never wanting to be the story or even part of the story.
That attitude is one of the things that attracted Virginia Commonwealth to Anthony Grant—his seemingly single minded approach.
While he has the right to be proud of his time at Florida and being part of their national championship run, you don't see him sporting the ring awarded to him for his contributions to that team.
Rather, he's a coach that you'll see standing quietly in what could be described as a pensive mood—never wanting to be a part of something that distracts him or his team from the task at hand.In fact, his commands and instructions are often concise: very short and very much on point.
Florida coach Billy Donovan's remarks mirrored what many have observed.
“I think because Anthony doesn’t get into the politics of coaching, because he’s not a self-promoter, a lot of schools didn’t do their homework on him a little bit earlier,” Donovan said in a telephone interview. “I think a lot of people missed out when they could have had him when he was very, very young.
Brett Nelson, who was a guard on Florida's 2000 Final Four team and then served as Grant's Director of Basketball Operations at VCU described Grant's first few days with the VCU program,
“A lot of times guys are hesitant to listen when they have a new coach, but he’s had their focus and commanded their respect since Day One."
That didn't happen from day one with Saban, but it did eventually.
Alabama fans can hope, with reason to do so, that the basketball team will do as the football team and learn just who their head coach truly is.
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