Odom Replacement May Be an Easy Choice
The early retirement announcement by South Carolina Head Basketball Coach Dave Odom, offers speculation and anticipation of his successor. While many names will surface, such as Greg Marshall (Wichita State), Scott Drew (Baylor), Sean Miller (Xavier), Bobby Lutz (Charlotte), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Tom Crean (Marquette), Steve Alford (New Mexico), and yes, even Alex English (Toronto-NBA), Rick Duckett (USC Asst.) and Bobby Cremins (College of Charleston), only one name prevails as the number one candidate at this time and era of South Carolina basketball: Anthony Grant.
Anthony Grant has a young but diverse coaching career. Grant's basketball career began as a player at Miami Senior High School, where he earned All-City first-team selection and Player-of-the-Year awards. After graduating, he went on to play for the University of Dayton. As a freshman in 1983-84, Grant was part of a Dayton squad that advanced all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, before bowing out to eventual national champion Georgetown. As a senior at Dayton, Grant was named team captain, team MVP, and was awarded the Sharpenter Memorial Rebounding Award, after leading the squad in scoring and rebounding.
After a brief professional basketball career, he returned to his former high school and eventually became head coach, where he guided his teams to three state titles, five straight national rankings and an overall record of 172-11.
He moved on to Stetson University for one year before teaming up with Billy Donovan at Marshall University, and then on to Florida with Donovan, where as first assistant and chief recruiter, he proved his ability to assist Donovan in attracting national talent to Florida, and eventually helped to build a National Championship team before moving on to become head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In his first year at VCU, he posted a 28-7 overall record and 16-2 in the Colonial Athletic Conference, grabbing immediate Cinderella accolades with the orchestration of the VCU 79-77 upset of 6th seeded Duke, to reach the 2nd round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
The competitive nature, championship experience and national recruiting success are not the only benefits of the 41 year old coach. South Carolina offers an immediate return to the SEC, a conference in which Grant successfully performed his duties for 10 years at Florida in helping to build the winningest team of the last decade. Financially it makes real sense. Currently Grant offers a tremendous upside to teams looking for a coach in a power conference, and on today's coaching salary scales, his skills are very under paid at a $275,000 base salary, with a $60,000 annual annuity, $15,000 for Radio and TV, plus compensation for shoe deals and camp revenues. The real advantage is that he only carries a $75,000 buyout if he leaves before the end of the 2009 season. On the current market, Grant is now a one million dollar coach, and will be a firm target of teams making changes in the next couple of years. USC offers the most immediate opportunity for him to return to a high profile conference, and in this case, one that Grant knows all too successfully well. With heat beginning to build in Alabama about its program struggles, South Carolina would really help itself by making this gem of a coach their primary target early. There are many interesting prospects, but none are as attractive and intriguing as Grant, based on history and the cost that it would take to match his resume. South Carolina needs a young coach with success experience, and Grant brings credibility, youth, communication skills and player performance history to the table. This is a "no-brainer" for South Carolina leadership if they are serious and committed to making positive changes to the basketball program. The team will have tremendous talent returning, with a need to gain some new physicality and post size, and this could be a prompt turn around under the right leadership.
But if this is not in the cards, then it has to be former Gamecock and NBA star, Alex English. This would be the story of modern day, it would gain immediate skills development support from the guru of youth development, George Glymph, long time mentor and friend of English.
Whatever happens, Eric Hyman, don't take too long to close in on the finalist.
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