Tuesday, April 18, 2006

VCU's Unveils Coach Grant

Two consecutive days in mid-April. Two press conferences at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center on Broad St. Two new names in local sports to get to know: Norwood T. Teague, 40, who won the competition to be the university’s new athletic director, was introduced to the press yesterday. Today, Anthony Grant, 40, was named as the Rams ninth head basketball coach.

VCU’s president, Dr. Eugene P. Trani, was beaming. Once again his swashbuckling leadership style was much in display. Faced with having to fill the two highest profile jobs in the athletic department, simultaneously -- Trani moved quickly to stabilize the situation.

Grant has been an assistant coach under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida, of the Southeast Conference, for the last 10 years. Yes, that Florida -- the current national champs of Division I hoopdom. For Teague, VCU dipped into the Atlantic Coast Conference for an assistant AD at the University of North Carolina. He is set to replace Dr. Richard Sander, VCU’s athletic director since 1986, who will step down this summer.
“The time and situation couldn’t be more perfect for Coach Grant (pictured above) to join VCU; both our program and league are poised to reach the next level,” said Trani. “We are thrilled to have a person of Anthony Grant’s stature, experience and recruiting talents, and eagerly await the successes that are ahead of us.”

Former VCU head coach Jeff Capel, who left to take the job of steering the Oklahoma Sooners program last week, departed having accumulated a 79-41 record in four years. The Rams were 19-11 overall, last season, and 11-7 in Colonial Athletic Association play.

Kudos to Trani. In hiring Grant, who looks intense but carries himself with poise, VCU appears to have landed on its feet, once again. The bold Capel hiring in 2002 worked out well. Time, of course, will tell more about Grant, whose resume looks impressive enough. Once again, Trani has rolled the dice on a man unproven as a head coach.

“VCU is getting one of the brightest coaches in the nation in Anthony Grant,” said Coach Donovan by amplified telephone. “[VCU’s] players will have the time of their lives.” Donovan’s enthusiastic endorsement of Grant was unqualified.

Grant played his high school ball in Miami; he was then a standout at the University of Dayton, graduating in 1987. In 105 games in Flyers colors his career stats were 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Following five years of high school coaching, he has been an assistant coach at the collegiate level for 13 years, 12 of them under Donovan.

“I am very excited to be here at VCU,” said Grant. “I appreciate Dr. Sander, President Trani and Mr. Teague giving me this opportunity. There is an obvious commitment on behalf of the administration to athletics and men’s basketball, in particular, to put us in a position to compete for championships.”

Moments later, in the back of the room, one of the returning Rams players had his cell phone go off, loudly, with some sort of goofy clatter. Amidst laughter, he ducked out of the press conference room, perhaps without his new coach and athletic director knowing who was the guilty party. His identity shall remain a secret.

Facing the press, in a friendly room, questions about how to upgrade the schedule were thrown at the new coach right away. Grant answered carefully but expressed confidence that in spite of the difficulty that mid-major schools have had with that mission, historically, VCU would be able to make new strides on his watch.

Well, there’s not much Coach Grant can do about that project right away -- next year’s schedule is set, for the most part. What he’d better get to work on, immediately, if not sooner, is finding a quality recruit who can play center. So, don’t be surprised if you call VCU’s new coach to congratulate him, and his cell phone rings somewhere near a junior college in Florida.

AP: Florida Assistant Grant Named as VCU Coach
Photos: SLANT

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