Flying home

Basketball coach Anthony Grant returns to UD

By Marc Katz

A not so funny story:

Two coaches prior to Anthony Grant becoming the Alabama basketball coach in 2009, plaid coat-clad Wimp Sanderson was the ultra successful coach of the Tide, until it was discovered he was having a long-term affair with his secretary.

It stopped when the secretary suffered from a black eye and Sanderson was found in the same room. If it were

The secretary said Sanderson hit her at the end of an argument. Sanderson said he held his arm out and she ran into it.

I can’t ever see Anthony Grant in that kind of situation. He wouldn’t embarrass himself, his family, or his school.

But that same school—Alabama—did the same thing to Grant it did to Sanderson. It fired him after four excellent seasons, one 13-19 record, and a season of four games above .500.

After the losing season, Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle said all the things you’d like an AD to say.

“We have had several philosophical discussions,” Battle wrote on a blog following the forgetful 2014 season. “In every meeting we have had, I came away impressed with [Grant’s] 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.”

And then Grant didn’t win big enough, and he was gone, an upwardly mobile coach reduced to damaged goods.

There are, something like, 351 Division I teams playing NCAA college basketball these days, and since only one of them won the National Championship, 350 others didn’t reach their expectations.

And, sure, UD has fired coaches with winning resumes, including arguably its most famous, Don Donoher, whose 25-year head coaching career ended with three straight losing teams, and Jim O’Brien, who coached the Flyers five seasons, winning 10 games combined in the last two.

The university and Donoher have made peace several times over, including with the recruiting of Grant, who was lured by Donoher from the shores of Miami, Florida, in 1983. Grant played a season behind Roosevelt Chapman and went on to become one of UD’s storied players.

He was a quiet guy, as I remember, especially the two seasons I covered the team, Grant’s first two. He was the rare Floridian on a team that usually stayed Midwest with a pipeline to New York during several NIT appearances.

Somehow, Grant was not being heavily recruited out of high school when Dan Hipsher, then a UD assistant, heard from Miami high school coach Shakey Rodriguez.

Hipsher had formed a relationship with Rodriguez when he was an assistant coach at Miami Dade South Community College just a few years before.

“Shakey contacted Dan and said, ‘I have a kid who may be overlooked here,’” Donoher says. “‘He isn’t being recruited by Florida or Florida State. You may have a shot here.’”

“There’s a lot of stories that go into it,” Grant said when he was introduced as UD’s coach recently. “I had a couple of opportunities in my home state, but really, when I came here, the environment, this community, blew me away. My dad was a guy who had a fourth grade education. He instilled in his kids, you’ve got to go to college. You’ve got to get an education.

“One of the things my dad said to [Donoher] was, ‘I don’t want my kid going into an office with a ball on his finger saying, hey, look what I can do with this ball.’ I was 17 at the time. It was kind of embarrassing to have your dad say that to your coach.

“But I think I read people pretty well. I think [Donoher] was sincere and he was going to give me an opportunity. The things my parents instilled in me, I kind of saw in him. It made it a little easier to go away from home.”

After UD, Grant played a year of professional ball when his old high school coach lured him into coaching. He stayed six years as a high school coach before signing on with Hipsher at Stetson, then Billy Donovan at Marshall. Donovan took Grant with him to Florida, winning the 2006 National Championship.

Grant landed the head coaching jobs at VCU, then Alabama. He was back with Donovan—only in the pros—when Dayton called again.

A couple of random meetings the last few years with former Flyers Chris Wright and Brian Roberts were prescient. They had never met before, but all knew they were teammates.

“I’m competitive as anybody out there,” Grant says. “I want to win as much as any other guy. But I want to make sure I do it right. We treat [players] like family, so 10, 20 years from now when they bring their children, I want them proud to say I went to UD. I played for that man.

“That’s the rewarding part for me. This team brings a lot of jobs, a lot of pride to people in this city.”

It’s all the right stuff. It just has to come with victories.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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