Grant Earns Great chance, Leaves Huge Hole

I have been surprised through the years to see Anthony Grant remain at the University of Florida while far less accomplished assistants kept getting chances to run their own program. Not only that, but Grant has seen several coaches with miserable track records get second and third chances while he carried on as Florida's top assistant building one of the nation's finest resumes.

That all ended Monday when Virginia Commonwealth decided to cash on Florida's great success and hired Grant to take over its program. To me, this is a great opportunity for Grant to take over a solid program with a documented fan base and solid recruiting territory. They lose their top player off a team that was 19-and-12 under Jeff Capel, but should be competitive from day one. It's a job with a good enough profile to be successful and enough exposure to make you a candidate for elite positions in the future.

Grant was formally introduced on Tuesday in what must be viewed as a belated birthday present, just three days after he turned forty.

Road Well Travelled

Anthony Grant's journey to Virginia Commonwealth began at Miami High where he was a standout player and first class student in the early eighties. Grant played his college ball at the University of Dayton and had a brief stint with the Miami Tropics of the USBL. He began his coaching career at his high school alma mater, helping Shakey Rodriguez lead the Stingarees to three state championships in five years.

Anthony Grant left Miami High to become the head coach at Miami Central for a year before spending a year at Stetson. It was in the spring of 1994 that his life took a dramatic turn, joining a hotshot young coach at Marshall University. Two years and a 35-and-20 record at Marshall led to Billy Donovan being offered the Florida job. Donovan knew at once that he had to bring the Miami native with him to establish in-state recruiting ties, particularly in South Florida.

Brent Wright, Major Parker, Udonis Haslem and Sylbrin Robinson would all cast their lot with Grant and the Gators in the next two years and the foundation for Florida Basketball was being laid. Donovan, Grant, Donnie Jones et al continued to scour the state and the nation for the right kids to turn the Gators into a perennial power in college basketball.

Those efforts culminated in the Gators greatest season ever in 2005-06 culminating in a national title. Grant had paid all the dues that needed to be paid and was a prime choice for a job like the one at VCU. He's earned it, and he'll get it done.

Now What?

With Grant moving on, Billy Donovan needs to make just the second change in his full-time staff in 13 years as a head coach. I have found through the years with various coaches that guessing who might be under consideration for a post is pretty much a like playing with a Ouija board. Still, there are several intriguing names that make sense in different ways; two of the names have been mentioned elsewhere on this site.

Craig Brown ----- Craig has been doing a fine job at Central Florida assisting former Gator Assistant Coach Kirk Speraw. He could bring a lot of things to the program. He's been a recruiter, he's known throughout the state, he's a former Gator player, he's a first class individual of the highest integrity and he's black. You may think that shouldn't matter, but it does.

Sidney Green ----- What Green offers that Brown doesn't is his experience tutoring big men in particular (Grant's area) as well as head coaching experience. He has a history with Billy and already knows this team. The question is, how would Taurean feel about is dad on the coaching staff? I suspect it wouldn't bother him toooo much, but that's a big factor. If Donovan decides to hire someone who will be the Associate Head Coach, Green has the stature for that title, Brown does not.

Rod Barnes ----- The former Ole Miss Coach makes sense, especially if Donovan shares my view that Barnes should never have been axed by the Rebels. He has eight years of head coaching experience even though he's just 40 years old. He really knows the SEC which would help in preparing game plans, and is a stickler for defensive fundamentals. He is also a warm and caring individual whose players adored him in Oxford.

Undoubtedly there are dozens of other potential candidates who have the combination of experience and personality that would fit the Gators' needs. These would be individuals that I either haven't thought of or never heard of. There's no question in my mind Billy will find a great guy… but these three are worthy of serious consideration.


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