For starters, I am not some crazed Bama homer, as the title of this article might suggest.
An SEC homer, yes. Alabama, however, is not a team I ever root for.
But they just made an excellent hire in Anthony Grant, the 42-year-old former head coach of VCU and long-time assistant to Billy Donovan.
I’m so impressed with this hire, I’m handing out trophies a year ahead of time.
While the rest of the nation would like to believe the SEC is dead, the fact is there is some great talent among both players and coaches in the conference. Talent that will rise quickly and make the SEC a force in hoops very soon.
And Anthony Grant’s hiring is yet another step in bringing the SEC back to prominence.
For starters, the guy can flat-out coach.
In 101 games at Virginia Commonwealth, Grant’s teams went 76-25, dominating the Colonial Athletic Association by winning three regular season titles and two conference tournament championships.
The Rams never won fewer than 24 games in each of Grant’s three seasons, including a school record of 28 in 2006-07.
Before VCU, however, Grant became known for hauling in top-notch talent, such as Al Horford, but also for identifying and developing kids with raw skills but not as much fanfare, such as Joakim Noah.
It’s no secret that Florida’s frontcourt, made up of Horford, Noah, and Chris Richard, is what made the Gators so dominating during their back-to-back national championship run.
Grant continued the trend of developing big men at VCU, nabbing the uber raw Larry Sanders, who didn’t even begin playing basketball until the 10th grade. While Sanders’ height and athleticism certainly played a part in his success, his progress blossomed in fast-forward under Grant.
Now Grant will attempt to do the same at Alabama, with incoming freshman big man Shawn Kemp, Jr. Yes, that name should look familiar, as he is indeed the son of former NBA star Shawn Kemp. Known as more of a rebounder and hard worker, Kemp should benefit greatly under the tutelage of Grant.
All of this brings us to Anthony Grant’s first season at Alabama.
Alabama’s former head coach, Mark Gottfried, didn’t get to five NCAA Tournaments and an Elite Eight appearance by picking up scrubs. The man could recruit, he just couldn’t consistently get that talent to either improve or play together.
Kind of like, say, John Brady and Dave Odom.
Brady’s LSU squad ended last year near the cellar of the West. Fast forward one year, and Trent Johnson wins the SEC regular season (at 13-3) with nearly the same group of players.
At South Carolina, Odom could only get nine conference wins out of his team over his last two seasons. Enter Darrin Horn, who takes that same squad and wins 10 conference games and a portion of the East crown in his first year.
Look for Anthony Grant to pull off a similar feat in 2010.
Aside from the fact that LSU loses a ton of players, including the SEC Player of the Year Marcus Thornton, the SEC West is so wide open it’s ridiculous.
Then take a look at Alabama’s athletic roster, which is nearly tailor-made for Grant’s up-tempo style.
It all starts inside with the athletic JaMychal Green, one of only two unanimous All-Freshmen SEC members. Expect even more polish to Green’s game—and an increase in his point and rebound production.
Mikhail Torrance and Senario Hillman are both athletic guards who can run the floor, defend, and rebound well. Neither shot a good percentage from three this past season, and that must be remedied by next year.
Speaking of shooting, Anthony Brock, really the only pure shooter on the roster, should get more minutes next season, which could signal trouble for opponents, considering Brock shot 45 percent from three on the season.
Pair Brock with incoming freshman Cully Payne and junior college transfer Charvez Young, both known for their three-point range, and the Tide’s outside shooting should drastically improve in 2010.
From there, the rest of the Tide roster is serviceable, and Grant should be able to go 10-deep, as his style typically dictates.
Put it all together, and you get a much-improved Alabama team and a well-deserved SEC Coach of the Year for Anthony Grant.