Anthony Grant Talks Alabama Basketball

As this year's disappointing Alabama basketball season came to a close, Crimson Tide Athletics Director Bill Battle made an unusual announcement -- that Bama Coach Anthony Grant would be back for the 2014-15 season. If a vote of confidence puts a coach on the hot seat, this seemed to plop Grant down on a keg of dynamite.

This week, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant discussed the plans going forward for Bama basketball and addressed Battle's announcement, which truly was supportive.

"I think anybody that's been around coach Battle knows that he's a very, very genuine person, competent in terms of his understanding of what it takes to build a program," Grant said. "So, certainly, for myself and my family we're appreciative of the support.

"But … for me it's about trying to get this program where it needs to be and put ourselves in position where we compete for championships. I think that's what Coach Battle expects, that's what I expect, that's what our fans who support us expect – as they should. I'm certainly appreciative of his confidence and support.

"I understand what we've got to be able to do."

In addition to Grant, Alabama will be returning at least two senior starters and a couple of other starters. Asked about the importance of the return of senior starters Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper, Grant said, "It will be a critical offseason for those guys. We talked about this last year. I felt like it would be critical for our veterans to step up and really make that jump and I think it's no secret we didn't have enough consistency this past season in that regard.

"For any team to have the type of success you want, a lot of that will be based on the guys you return, that have been through it. We have some very talented young guys that will join the program next year. I'm excited about what they bring to the table, but most of the time it's the veterans – their leadership, their ability to take that next step as players that really make a big difference.

"So, that goes for our senior class next year and even for our freshmen -- Shannon Hale and Jimmie Taylor; they got a chance to play an awful lot this year and gained experience. What type of improvements will they make? What type of work will they put in in the offseason to take that next step as players.

"We were fortunate to have two (transfer) guys in our program in Ricky Tarrant (6-2 point guard from Tulane) and Mike Kessens (6-9 post player from Longwood) that got a chance to practice every day and learn the system and the way we want to play. Those guys had great careers at their former schools, so their ability to come in and impact our program, those will be veteran guys because they've been through it a year in terms of learning the system."

Grant addressed a number of topics, including the previously announced losses of two upcoming seniors, center Carl Engstrom (graduating and going to Europe) and guard Algie Key (transferring), the spring break broken foot suffered by Shannon Hale, and the continued suspension of Nick Jacobs.

Grant had an opening statement that included:

"Since the season ended, it's kind of been a little disjointed. Our guys had a few days here on campus before spring break and just getting back into the swing of things here this week.

"With about three weeks left in the semester, the focus right now is making sure our guys finish strong from an academics standpoint, do the things they need to do.

"We did start strength and conditioning workouts again this past week, so the guys are back in a little bit of a routine there. What's unique for us as we finish up these last three to four weeks of school, for our guys it's been really a long year. If you think about it, it started with our overseas trip this past summer and into this season. So we want to make sure that first and foremost they're taking care of their responsibilities as student-athletes, getting their bodies back to where they need to be.

"[Beyond Hale] Some other guys have issues that we've been trying to deal with in terms of their health, just from the rigors of the season. But I don't think it'll be anything serious."

On other points, he said:

He anticipates the return of his coaching staff intact.

He was understandably vague in response to whether there would be "schematic changes."

"Every year, every offseason I always evaluate," Grant said. "I think no matter where you are as a coach in any sport, whether you win your last game and you're a champion or you lose or don't make the postseason, I think you're always in the process of trying to evaluate where you can get better. I think that's a never-ending process.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to the results, the final results. I guess my thing is more of when you say where things went wrong, probably on the scoreboard. The end result of a game.

"But you're always trying to get better, you're always trying to improve, you're always trying to see where you can get better. That's a process I go through every offseason and certainly this one is no different."

On next year's schedule:

"We're in the process of putting it together. You look at some of the games that we played last year, there will be returns on those games, we've just got to finalize details of when. We'll go out to Wichita, we'll go to Xavier, UCLA will be coming in here, South Florida will be coming in here. So there's other things that we're trying to put together, just in terms of making it as competitive a schedule as possible for the team that we'll have."

Asked whether he knows new Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl, Grant reminded that "My first two years here at Alabama, he was at Tennessee, and I think he had really good teams, very good coach. Obviously, his record speaks for itself. It's a new situation, there's a different team, I'm sure he'll do a great job in a role that he has there."

A question included the notation that former Alabama Coach C.M. Newton had suggested that Grant needs to be more proactive in promoting the Crimson Tide basketball program.

Grant, who has notoriously poor media opportunities, joked, "Yeah, I think one of my suggestions is that we do this about twice a day."

But, he added, "By nature, I'm probably a guy that's just worried about making sure I'm doing what I need to do. Certainly, I have no issue in terms of being able to get out and be available from a media standpoint or a public standpoint. Coach Newton's a dear friend and I certainly value everything and anything he says in terms of how to help our program, grow our program, help with marketing our program in any way, shape or form. I'm always welcome to his comments, really any comments on how to help us to get where we're trying to get to as a program."

NEXT: Anthony Grant's thoughts about the perception of the Southeastern Conference, particularly with two SEC teams – Florida and Kentucky – in the Final Four.

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