What’s Next at Alabama After Anthony Grant?

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 16th, 2015

Anthony Grant was the SEC’s lone coaching question mark heading into the offseason, but unfortunately for the sixth-year Alabama head coach, news of his firing was released shortly before Alabama received an NIT bid. This led commentator and former Providence head coach Tim Welsh to candidly hurl the following zinger toward athletic director Bill Battle during the NIT Selection Show (after hurling a true but strangely-placed zinger at the NIT itself).

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Welsh’s sentiment seems to capture the consensus on Grant as a well-liked and respectable guy. He was never surrounded by scandal or shadiness and Grant had clearly impressed Battle a year ago when he wrote the following in a blog post: “In every meeting we have had, I came away impressed with his character, with his knowledge and belief in his approach to the game, with his commitment to win championships at Alabama, and with his ability to recruit and develop players, both on and off the court.” Grant clearly didn’t win enough to keep his job; he exits Tuscaloosa with a 117-85 (54-48 SEC) record that includes one NCAA Tournament appearance (2012). Recruiting and player development at Alabama was a mixed bag — Trevor Releford was an excellent get and he also hit paydirt with Tony Mitchell and Levi Randolph. But there were others that never came around. His coaching strength was on the defensive end. Grant consistently built outstanding defensive teams, landing in the top-20 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings each season from 2011-13. But offense was a problem. His teams were never better than 60th nationally (this year) on that end of the floor, and his preferred slow style of play turned off a lot of Tide fans.

The ultimate problem for Grant at Alabama was that he always seemed a year away from greater success — but the “year away” lasted for about five seasons. After the all-ACC season Trevor Lacey put together with NC State this year, you almost wonder if things may have been different had the star guard not transferred after the 2012-13 season. Alabama is now searching for a new head basketball coach for the first time since 2009. Battle would have been justified in retaining Grant for at least one more season, since this year’s 18-14 (8-10 SEC) campaign was an improvement over last season’s 13-19 (7-11 SEC) mark, and the head coach needed to replace Releford and lost Ricky Tarrant for a portion of the year. That said – and it’s hard to talk about a person losing his or her job as a “good” thing – the move shows that Alabama is committed to more basketball success than what the school was getting.

It could be that Alabama has the resources to make a splashy hire since Grant was reportedly making a pretty penny at close to $1.8 million per year. His team’s slow-paced offense that struggled to score was often lamented by fans, so you wonder if a change in style of play will factor into Battle’s decision on a new coach. If you are throwing darts at the wall, the first name that would seem to pop up would be Louisiana Tech’s Michael White, who was connected with the Auburn, Missouri and Tennessee jobs last year, and reportedly turned down the Vols before the position went to Donnie Tyndall. He had another excellent year at 25-8 (15-3 CUSA) but failed to make the NCAAs for the third straight season after losing in the Conference USA Tournament. Two other quick thoughts are former UCLA head coach Ben Howland, who wants to get back into coaching, and local product Jerod Haase, who led UAB to an NCAA bid after a surprising run in the Conference USA Tournament.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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