Enough already, Bulldogs: Hire Anthony Grant now!

If I’m Damon Evans, I’ve seen enough. I’m on a plane to Richmond today, and I’m scheduling the news conference for Monday, wherein I will introduce Anthony Grant as Georgia’s new basketball coach.

Do I think it will work that way? Nope. I’m guessing the athletics director will feel obliged to conduct what he deems a more “thorough” search. But Evans has had two months now to assess the field, and he’ll not find anyone better suited.

Anthony Grant knows the SEC, having worked under Billy Donovan at Florida. He knows how to recruit, having helped land the signing class — the “Oh-Fours,” those Gators called themselves — that would win consecutive national championships. And he knows how to win on his own, having gone off and done just that.

At Virginia Commonwealth, Grant has taken two Colonial titles and reached the NCAA tournament twice in three seasons. The time he missed, his team was the top seed and lost in the conference semis by two points. If you doubt the Colonial’s bona fides, note that George Mason, which reached the 2006 Final Four, plays there. VCU beat Mason by 21 points in this season’s title game.

There has been talk in Georgia circles that Grant has only piggybacked atop what Jeff Capel began at VCU. Capel made the NCAA tournament once in his four seasons with the Rams. Yes, he left Grant with the splendid guard Eric Maynor, but Maynor was the only senior on this Ram roster. The burgeoning big man Larry Sanders? Grant signed him out of Port St. Lucie, Fla.

If you watched Maynor and Sanders work against UCLA in the Big Dance on Thursday, you saw players who clearly have been coached. The Bruins have been to the past three Final Fours, but Maynor had a shot to beat them at the horn. He’d made that shot two years ago to topple Duke in Round 1, but this time he missed. He missed because Ben Howland, one of the best in the business, double-teamed Maynor on the inbounds.

But here we must credit the man on VCU’s bench: Grant still found a way to get Maynor the ball, and the guard hoisted a reasonable, if contested, shot. Contrast this with Georgia Tech’s behavior against Florida State in the ACC tournament: Paul Hewitt chose to give the ball to a freshman (Iman Shumpert), as opposed to the senior Lewis Clinch, who’d scored 57 points in two days.

This is Evans’ first big hire, and I understand he’d be attracted to bigger names. (An e-mail to Evans inquiring about search criteria went unanswered.) If FoxSports is to be believed, Georgia is prepared to offer Capel $2 million, more than twice what Dennis Felton earned. But Capel’s younger brother Jason told me last week he didn’t see his sibling as Athens-bound. “I don’t think Oklahoma will let him leave,” Jason Capel said.

Know what I say? Good. Sometimes the lesser name is the proper name. Grant seems (at least to me) a better coach than Jeff Capel. Grant seems precisely what Georgia needs.

Let’s recall what Jeremy Foley, considered the best AD in the SEC, did when he needed someone to replace Lon Kruger at Florida. He hired a 30-year-old from Marshall who’d worked under Rick Pitino, and four seasons later Billy Donovan had the Gators in the Final Four.

It’s also instructive that, on the spring day in 2007 that Donovan recanted on his commitment to coach the Orlando Magic, Foley got the word in Richmond, Va. He’d gone there to try to bring Grant back to coach Florida. Evans should take the hint. If a guy’s good enough for the hated Gators, he’s good enough for Georgia.

196 comments Add your comment

PTC DAWG

March 20th, 2009
10:41 am

I’m for it, as long he agrees to a big time buyout. And the big time buyout only applies IF he comes to Athens and is at least .500 in the SEC in 3 years.

uga_b

March 20th, 2009
10:50 am

Hmm…a coach from a small school that made the tourney a few times…this sounds eerily familar.

Big Al

March 20th, 2009
10:54 am

I’ll buy that argument, Mark. Bring A. Grant to Athens, Damon. I’m redy to see MY team in this tourney. Go Dawgs!!!

lee massengale

March 20th, 2009
10:56 am

I agree with the above article. I think anthony grant would be an axcellent choice.He knoews how to coach.Imagine what he could do with the talent in ga that uga has been unable to sign.I think uga should sign hin right away.He is just what uga needs.

lee massengale

March 20th, 2009
10:56 am

Enter your comments here

David

March 20th, 2009
10:56 am

Qualifications for the head coach:

**1-Knows hoops
2-Can recruit the state and keep players here
3-Can sell the whole program to media, fans, players–confidence
4-Wants to build a program and leave his legacy**

Tubby was as close as we could get to that but he didn’t have #4. Damon just needs to sit down with the prospects and just like the Rooney’s and Mike Tomlin, sit across from him with the above criteria, and KNOW they will get the right guy.

Matt Brooks

March 20th, 2009
10:57 am

I’m with you Mark. Grant is both proven and attainable.

GWG

March 20th, 2009
10:57 am

I agree 100% with the choice of Grant.

lee massengale

March 20th, 2009
10:59 am

i think anthony grant would be an excellent choice for uga.if he was going to be offered the uf job then i know he would do a great job for uga.evans should offer him the job right away.

allan in texas

March 20th, 2009
11:02 am

Bring him in NOW!!!!! Step your game up Dawgs!

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:02 am

There’s a difference between Grant and Dennis Felton, UGA B. Grant wouldn’t have to clean up Harrick’s mess.

And for the record: I never thought Felton was a bad hire. He was a good hire who just didn’t work out.

Basketball 101

March 20th, 2009
11:03 am

There are plenty of good coaches around, but the real question is, who wants to be Michael Adams’ hoe.

Clemson guy would fit in at Ga

March 20th, 2009
11:05 am

and he is now watching the tourn like us.

foxdog

March 20th, 2009
11:06 am

Mark, you are right. Damon Evans needs to go hire this man ASAP!!

SkinnyJ

March 20th, 2009
11:07 am

You all are crazy if you think he is going to come and coach against Donavon. He will sit at VCU until the perfect job comes along. And that means ACC or Florida. Maybe a Big East school in the Mid-Atlantic.

What makes anyone think that just because UGA ups his salary, Grant will come begging for the job? He can sit at VCU with little pressure and continue to win in a decent conference and have his stock continue to skyrocket.

What makes anyone think that, if given the choice, he wouldn’t choose UVA over UGA? Better conference, better school, better facilities, better fan base. He also wouldn’t have to coach against his mentor twice a year.

Sorry UGA, this isn’t football. Just because you want, doesn’t mean you get.

Clint

March 20th, 2009
11:08 am

He’s been my choice all along. I don’t think Capel would come here especially now with the Virginia job open. Grant is young and can energize not only recruits, but the lifeless fanbase at UGA. That’s something Felton was never able to do.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:09 am

I don’t think Grant will come begging. But I’m guessing he’d be intrigued.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:10 am

I’d rather have Grant than Oliver Purnell. Grant is 42. Purnell is 55.

Gordon

March 20th, 2009
11:10 am

And here we sit at Georgia Tech stuck with Paul Hewitt, wondering if we can work around him with new assistants (if there will be any), or how we will ever get out of his automatic rollover contract. We will be dominated by UGA in basketball soon despite our advantages of being in the ACC, the city of Atlanta, and having the reputation of putting people in the NBA.

Josh

March 20th, 2009
11:11 am

Bring him to Athens! I became heavily infatuated with the idea that Bob Knight might don a Red and Black sweater vest, but the more I here about Grant, the more I can appreciate this blue collar guy from a mid-major.

Bill

March 20th, 2009
11:12 am

I agree Mark and was thinking the same while watching the game. I don’t like Capel and don’t believe he’s that good. It’s time UGA gets serious-minded about the Basketball program and Coach Grant would be the first step.

Wish GT would fire Hewitt and hire Grant. See I pull for both Teams and want both to win.

Thanks Mark for info.

jmcguffey

March 20th, 2009
11:12 am

to logical to happen

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:16 am

You’re welcome, Bill.

And this could easily happen, JMcGuffey. Easily, I say.

paul in J-ville

March 20th, 2009
11:19 am

“skinny J” has been smokin that pfunny stuff again. Sure, I know I wouldn’t come and coach in the SEC for about 1.5 million more than I currently make just because I wouldn’t want to hurt my former coach’s feelings. Get REAL SKINNY J.
Its all about opportunity and certainly Billy Donavon would tell him he’s insane not to. Georgia may not be an elite program by any strech, but its a PERFECT situation to jump into. The sky is the limit and it surely cant go any lower.
Great article, great choice, GET HIM!

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:22 am

The thought of coaching against Pitino didn’t stop Billy Donovan from going to Florida. (Or Tubby Smith from moving to Georgia.) The thought of coaching against Donovan didn’t keep John Pelphrey from going to Arkansas.

Leland

March 20th, 2009
11:26 am

Dear Mr. MF–I agree that Georgia should go after Grant. He already knows most of the rules, and I believe he can teach the players how to dribble real good. But, that bit about the “hated Gators”…….. Still your pal, Leland

Leland

March 20th, 2009
11:30 am

Dear Mr. MB–I forgot to mention–did you see that Mr. College Football (TB) is back? Now we got you, TB and what’s-his-name that does the Braves. Boy, howdy. Your pal, Leland

Dawg97

March 20th, 2009
11:30 am

I agree with the above commenter about not thinking Felton was a bad hire when it happened. I like what he had done at Western Kentucky.

But Felton proved a disaster on the bigger conference stage. To me one of the most basic elements is to convince some of the best in-state recruits to stay home and play for us. Not saying you’ll get everyone, but a really good coach should be able to get at least 2 really good in-state players, per year.

Grant is not Felton. Grant was an assistant at Florida and a well know good recruiter while there. He’s openly stated his interest in Athens and the Georgia job, is 42 (as has been pointed out) and just because he’s a small school success and a young African American coach, doesn’t mean this will be Felton II. Felton (no offense, Dennis) has zero personality. Anthony Grant, is a jovial, energetic and enthusiastic (and talented) young coach and seems like a perfect fit.

But the $ needs to be really good upfront. I think if we can pony up with a really healthy $2 million offer, we can avoid what happened with Tubby and even if Florida opens up next year, Grant will be happy with the situation in Athens.

UGA '01

March 20th, 2009
11:35 am

Still would be my third choice of possible candiadtes. If I’m Damon, I would try to get Mark Few or Jay Wright…if that doesn’t happen, then I would go after Grant. We need a “big name” coach to bring some instant credibility. At least Felton is leaving the program off than Harrick. I’m sure Evans will make the right decision. GO DAWGS!

UGA '01

March 20th, 2009
11:36 am

Sorry tech fans that I didn’t proof-read my post….should be candidates not “candiadtes.”

Bill

March 20th, 2009
11:37 am

Leland the Mr. MF is not called for….still your pal.

Right On Time

March 20th, 2009
11:39 am

Mark,

Not trying to be argumentative. But, how could a “good hire” not work out? By definition, a hire that is good will wok out because it is…good. The JH mess did not force Felton into recruiting and then
dismissing players. Felton created some of the “mess” by his own actions.

Question: Will whomever coaches UGA next year have to take “leftovers” and walkons as players? What will need to be done to replace what may turn into a mass exodus?

Uga91

March 20th, 2009
11:41 am

Hey Mark nice article, I like Grant but what do you think about the coach for Mizzou, I believe his name is Mike Jones, I know he was a long time assistant for Arkansas, and I love that 40 minutes of hell style. I would think that all the talent this state has would be intriguing to him and that frenetic style would be pleasing to the fans. Plus he knows how to recruit the south.

Leland

March 20th, 2009
11:41 am

Dear Mr. MB–also DOB on the Falcon loop. Bill, a mistake. I’ll try to proofread more carefully. Your pal, Leland

bank walker

March 20th, 2009
11:43 am

I disagree, we need someone with a proven track record! No more taking chances!!!!!!!!!GO DAWGS!!!!!!!

Mac

March 20th, 2009
11:43 am

What sold me was that Foley was in Richmond when Donovan crawfished. Go ahead and sign him up. Don’t agree, though, that Felton was a good hire. He was disastrous.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:46 am

Leland, you know I’ll forgive you most anything. Always a pleasure.

And Right On Time, the thing Georgia most needed post-Harrick was someone who wouldn’t cut corners and break rules. If anything, it got someone who was too rigid. But better that than the death penalty.

GT Fan

March 20th, 2009
11:48 am

UGA ‘01 no problem with this fan.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
11:50 am

About the other names: A dozen big schools have gone after Mark Few, but he’s still at Gonzaga. I don’t see why he’d come to Georgia.

I really, really like Jay Wright: Great guy, good coach. But I don’t think he’d leave Villanova.

Mike Anderson is the coach at Missouri, and he has done a fine job. He was Nolan Richardson’s assistant at Arkansas and beat Kentucky in the 2004 NCAA tournament when he was head coach at UAB. But — and this could make me an army of one — I like the way Grant’s VCU teams play more than I liked Anderson’s teams at UAB.

Left to Right

March 20th, 2009
11:55 am

Mark-

I agree that Grant would not be a bad hire, BUT your column sets up a false premise of limited coaching options for Damon Evans. You make it appear Evans only options are Capel or Grant, when in fact there is a spectrum of qualified (and by that I mean better than Oliver Purnell) possible coaches willing to seriously consider Georgia. Grant is a good coach, but he’s not the only good coach interested in the Georgia job.

Cleveland

March 20th, 2009
11:58 am

Grant would be a good choice to consider, but I would also consider Mike Anderson over at MIZZOU. Talk about experienced and winning ways. He studied under Nolan Richardson and won a National Championship at Arkansas. Knows the SEC and how to recruit the entire South. Not just Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Had winning record at UAB (went dancing) – same size school as VCU. Now WINNING and still dancing at Missouri. Teaches and wins with a style of play that players and fans would enjoy. What’s better than winning big and with an up tempo style. Players would welcome up tempo. Would cost somewhere between what Grant and Capel would cost.

Any comments Mark?

SkinnyJ

March 20th, 2009
12:04 pm

You think UGA is the first SEC job that has been offered to Grant? How many opening have come up since 2006, when he really came on the national scene? Why not go to SC? Why not LSU? Both of those jobs are better than or equal to UGA. Now, either they didn’t want him (which means he may not be all that you think he is), or he turned them down. Let’s not pretend like UGA is his first opportunity at coaching in the spotlight that is SEC basketball. The only time he has answered an SEC phone call has been when Florida called.

mar1jdh

March 20th, 2009
12:06 pm

Grant is the best guy and will want to move up to the big time be it SEC, ACC or any other major conference. Anderson is a good thought, but why would he leave a major conference school with a passion for basketball and great facilities for second tier status at UGA and a third tier facility.

MightyQuinn

March 20th, 2009
12:11 pm

No blogging the games live at home today, Mark? I enjoyed that yesterday, as a 50 year old rookie live blogger!

Been down this road before...

March 20th, 2009
12:11 pm

I’m sure that Grant is an excellent coach but I’m w/ UGA_b on this one… an up and coming coach from a mid-major conf. that has been to the big dance a few times. Didn’t we just fire a guy like that? Granted, if you can’t get a big name to come for $2 million then Grant is a good choice but there HAS to be someone looking to build a program and an ego. GO DAWGS!!!

BernieDawg

March 20th, 2009
12:12 pm

I would be very satisfied with Grant should at the end of the process Evans decides he is the right fit. I find myself wanting not only the best coach, but also the best coach who will stay and spurn others’ offers. (still smartin’ from Tubby leaving I guess) Unfortunately, the truth is we are not there yet.

The other side of that coin is we could be and WILL be with the right hire here. The hardcourts are fertile, talented ground in GA. Take your time Evans and bring the right one home.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
12:16 pm

No, Quinn. Just sitting around today. Then again, I just sat around yesterday.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2009
12:17 pm

Cleveland, my thoughts on Mike Anderson can be found above your comment. Thanks for asking.

AZ2FL

March 20th, 2009
12:21 pm

The best job in the country that is available is at Arizona. If Grant is going anywhere, he’s going to the Wildcats. Tremendous fan base. Great college town. Close to fertile recruiting grounds in California and Texas.

Atlanta Jackets

March 20th, 2009
12:24 pm

Greetings Leland, it is good to hear you again. We missed you at the session the other day. Kudos to you, my friend, for a grand jello cake recipe. Tiff loved it. Always interested, A.Jackets