Saturday, March 14, 2015

Everybody Knows The Good Guys Lost: UA Must Fire Anthony Grant

Everybody got this broken feeling, like their father or their dog just died. - Leonard Cohen

As I have been the chief defender of the faith in Anthony Grant at this blog for the last six years, I feel I am uniquely qualified to write this post. I have been called many unpleasant things the last six seasons as I have defended Anthony Grant from the wails and moans of the worst of the message board sect. In recent weeks, I have been forced to eat humble pie. It's not the first time I've been on the wrong end of a crusade, and it likely won't be the last. While my optimism about Alabama basketball has suggested that I am overly warm and fuzzy regarding all topics, the reality is that I am an overly hardened cynic, rendered wary and weary by a world in which the worst of our species thrive, while the best of us die. From a college basketball standpoint, we're seeing that point driven home this weekend as Bruce Pearl mugs for the SEC Network cameras, and has his team two wins away from an unthinkable SEC tournament title. Meanwhile Anthony Grant (whom, by all accounts, is a good human being that has run the Alabama program with class and humility) waits for a Sunday announcement of the NIT field, and/or possibly a pink slip for his termination.

And as much as I hate to write this, that pink slip is painfully necessary at this point. Following the program's 11th straight loss to a Florida program whose 14-15 edition will finish the season under .500, and a record of 0-10 for Anthony Grant against that Gator program, the Alabama program as a whole is spinning its wheels in a mud hole of mediocrity. I've said for many years that the Alabama basketball program is a sleeping giant, but over the course of the last two seasons we've watched it fall into a coma. Attendance is down, apathy is high. And some tough decisions must now be made.

Unlike some who read and comment to this blog, I have nothing but respect for Anthony Grant. You will never see me write that Anthony Grant is "incompetent" or one of the other numerous insults that have been directed towards him by some of our more, ahem, "passionate" readers. How or why would anyone of sound mind be disrespectful towards Anthony Grant? As noted above, he has been a class act during his tenure as men's basketball coach, representing the best aspects of a person as he trudges along in a tough profession that has taken many great men and women before him and reduced them to base animals, selling their souls for one more donation or win. In that respect coaches are not so different than politicians. If you're going to succeed in politics, coaching or any profession really, you are forced to play a game, the rules of which are not always yours to make. Anthony Grant has not always played by those rules, and it has cost him brownie points among the media, in high school recruiting circles, and, particularly, with the proles in the fanbase who, like most voters, only like the guy who sounds and looks the best on television.

However, to be fair, it also comes down to wins. And the fact is that Anthony Grant simply hasn't won enough of the most important games during his tenure to build the momentum necessary to create a championship program. Yes, there are other obstacles that exist for a basketball coach at the university, but as Anthony Grant has been fond of saying over the years, the game is always the same within the lines; and the bitter pill to swallow is that his teams just haven't got it done between those lines.

This is not to suggest that Anthony Grant is a bad coach. Some of you will disagree, but I don't buy the man is a bad coach. Put Grant on another bench at a different school, the results could be far different. And I believe the final word on his competence as a head coach should be determined at any future stops he makes. I feel confident that, should the university relieve him of his duties, he will land on his feet somewhere, and perhaps be the better for it.

Grant's teams have always been competitive during his tenure, but they have just never been able to get over the hump in key games. The Wichita State game in December was a great example of the struggles under Grant. His team, on the road in one of the most hostile environments in the college game, outplayed a top twenty RPI team for thirty-five minutes, but when it came to winning time, the team faltered under the pressure that comes with winning, as we've seen them do too many times in the past. A key aspect in coaching is the ability to motivate and convey mental toughness before, during and after a game. While Grant's teams have always been resilient overall, they have always seemed to lack resiliency in key situations in games. In the Wichita State game, it was simply a matter of protecting the basketball for five minutes of game time. Turnovers had been minimal for the first thirty-five minutes, but the team fell apart in the final five. That goes back to the bench, right or wrong. Yes, players have to make plays, but a coaching staff has to be able to imbue them with the confidence that they cannot be denied, regardless of the opposing team.

How does a program, in this day and age of the sport, lose to the same program eleven times in a row? Despite Florida's success, they have not been light years ahead of Alabama in terms of talent. And yet, Alabama has been unable to win one game in the last eleven meetings. Bruce Pearl, for all of his perceived faults, understands the importance, as the coach of Auburn, in beating Alabama, just as he understood the importance of winning at least one game in Nashville this week. The wins over A&M, LSU and beyond will be cherries on top. It was the Wednesday game against Mississippi State that was the most important game. And Auburn won the game. I can assure you that every future team under Pearl will have that importance of certain games hammered home. One wonders if that same level of importance was leveled at Florida by Anthony Grant at any time prior to one of the ten losses that have occurred under his leadership. I can't believe it was, for if it had, I feel confident that Alabama would have, at the very least, a handful of wins against that program.  

The time is now. The rumors continue to swirl about whether or not Grant will receive a seventh season, but after the last six seasons, I'm not sure that's the best thing for either party, UA or Grant. The university is going through many administrative changes. Within the next year alone the university will have a new president and, maybe, a new AD. The thought process may be to delay any coaching changes until that transition is completed. As I've said here before, if Grant is retained I will gladly pull for him, his staff and the team to finally find a way to get over the hump. However, I can no longer hold firm to the belief that glory days are ahead for this program under Anthony Grant's direction.

And that realization creates a deep, lasting pain in my gut, for it tells my cynical mind that virtues alone is not enough. That we are seemingly cursed to always live in a world in which we must bite our lip, and concede that good will never be good enough. Damn. No wonder some people hate sports.

35 comments:

Frances said...

I can't argue against anything that you said. I have a few comments though:

1. "like the guy who sounds and looks the best on television."

I heard a caller ask on a pretty recent broadcast of Finebaum about comparing Anthony Grant with Ole Miss' basketball coach. The Ole Miss coach had been a guest earlier in the broadcast, and he's been the Rebels'/Black Bears' head coach for 9 years now. His resume of success at Ole Miss isn't very different from Grant's in Tuscaloosa (1 SEC Title, 1 NIT appearance, 1 NCAA appearance), and the caller asked Finebaum why Grant is in the hot seat but Ole Miss' coach doesn't seem to be despite 3 more years as the head coach. Finebaum responded by talking about how Grant doesn't do well in front of the cameras. Personally, I've never felt that way. In fact, I'd never before heard that about Grant, but since you're also mentioning it, I guess that I've missed those comments and examples of his non-likeability on camera. I don't get it though because Anthony Grant always looks damn fine to me in his suits. I don't think that I'm the only one who feels that way because if you go to Google and start typing "is Anthony Grant" (which I often do to find the most recent online references to Grant's potential firing), the first potential search that populates Google's search field is: "is Anthony Grant married".

2. I am not always an objective sports fan when Alabama is playing, but I think that I can be fairly objective when evaluating an Alabama sporting event. I have a few good friends who are non-Ohio State Big Ten alums, and they really dislike Ohio State. I've listened to how much they despise the Buckeyes, but I hadn't experienced playing against Ohio State until New Year's Day. Maybe I wasn't being objective or maybe I'm a sore loser, but during that game in Dallas, I got the feeling that the Ohio State football players are thugs. Their behavior and actions rubbed me the wrong way, and I told my Big Ten friends that I may have seen what they dislike about Ohio State. In the two basketball games against Auburn this season, I got that same feeling. Those guys seemed like thugs to me. By thug, basically I mean a man who seems to want to be testy and violent. After seeing the clips from the Auburn-LSU game in Nashville, I think that my feelings were right about at least one Auburn player. I don't want any Alabama athlete ever to be like that, and I feel absolutely certain that Anthony Grant coaches, molds, mentors, etc. the basketball players to be so much better than that. Someone like Marcus Smart doesn't belong at Alabama, and I don't think that Coach Grant would want someone like that as a part of his program even if it meant guaranteed wins. I want to stand behind that.

3. I still have faith that the good guys can succeed.
http://gamedayr.com/sports/cbb/billy-donovan-defends-anthony-grant-134144/
https://twitter.com/Shannonhale23/status/576147656000606208

finebammer said...

"the first potential search that populates Google's search field is: "is Anthony Grant married".

that might be because Anthony Grant is a millionaire. who's responsible for that? (rhetorical question)

" I still have faith that the good guys can succeed."

they do. at North Carolina. at Duke. at Kentucky. i don't hear anyone referring to their players as "thugs". but see what i did there? i didn't compare our program to bottom feeders. i've said from the jump i never wanted Pearl at Alabama. i think he's a cheating, lying, greasy snitch. but he can coach the shit out of a basketball team.

Anthony Grant has been at Alabama 6 years. he was sold to us as being ready for prime time. he wasn't. people who know basketball better than me have questioned his coaching. still do.

thursday, Grant had the chance again to show some coaching chops. 'Bama's trying to make a late game run. Cooper drives to the basket and is called for a charge. it was an obvious bad call. Cooper is fouled out of the game. it's time to go to the mat for your players. your team. Grant missed it. again.

there are times your have to challenge the officials. get in their faces. make something happen. it might result in an ejection. you might have to trust your assistants. Grant seems unable to consistently recognize these moments. to the detriment of his team.

"it's funny people on the outside don't get what's really going on, but they always got something to say."

it's also funny that sometimes, people on the inside, can't see the forest for the trees.

Drifter said...

Battle is the one who is incompetent.
Let Grant go softly into the night. Name Pettway Interim coach for however long it takes to get the right guy.
(Pettway is not the guy, but is connected to the high school talent in Alabama and can recruit as well as Grant or better. I wouldn't mind if he had to be interim all through next season, which may be the case with lame duck Presidents and ADs.)
The time for talking is over. Someone on the BOT needs to take action.

CTider said...

Gonna repost this petition that CitadelTideFan posted in the last thread. Fire Grant. http://www.petitionbuzz.com/pe...

finebammer said...

how important is this time for Alabama basketball???

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/24679164/bruce-pearl-already-has-auburn-recruiting-at-highest-levels



we're currently getting our doors blown off in more ways than one.

bobbyjack said...

A few things:
- The heat has been put on Battle to make a change thanks to the numerous emails flooding him and others. So much so that his email account has supposedly changed and is only known internally. I sent an email 2 days ago... something I have never done before. This is do or die for the program
- Anthony Grant may be a nice guy, but nice guys don't get to keep their jobs forever. He hasn't been very good here regarding results... I can put up a whole lot of stats that show he might be worse than Hobbs. I'll hold off for now.
- Long time readers know how much I liked Charles Hankerson... well, Wyoming is in the Mountain West championship game so I'm ALL IN on the Cowboys right now.

CTider said...

Does Hankerson still play? How many years of eligibility does he have?

CTider said...

I'll say this: If/when it is announced that Grant is being retained, it will be the lowest moment in the history of the program.

bobbyjack said...

Sr @ Wyoming. Starter and playing tonight on CBS at 6PM EST

Old Skol said...

Pearl & Bowers, Grainger -you can take the pig out of the slop but eventually he will find himself back rolling in the stink

finebammer said...

" So much so that his email account has supposedly changed......"


how'd you find this out??

RichTide said...

Don't forget Devonta Pollard at Houston. Played 40 min last night and 14 pts, 9 reb. For the season, averaged 30 min, 11 pts, 6 Reb, 1.2 steals but most importantly only 2.7 fouls. Who here thinks those would be his stats at Bama this year? Yes, I get he was kicked off the team for the bizarro-mom-kidnapped-kid drama. But by most accounts that was a crazy mom, not a bad kid. There's a difference between running a clean program and a pristine program.

Iron Mike Sharpe said...

He has a few... the main one is not getting read right now. That one has been slammed by emails the past 3 days. My guess it's getting filtered by the IT dept there. That is his 'customer facing' address.

bobbyjack said...

He has a few... the main one is not getting read right now. That one has been slammed by emails the past 3 days. My guess it's getting filtered by the IT dept there. That is his 'customer facing' address.

bobbyjack said...

True. Sort of forgot about him. Glad to hear he's picked up the pieces.

RichTide said...

MS - gotta say I'm shocked. You've been the lone stalwart defender. Why the sudden "Grant's gotta go?" Is it simply for the good of the program? Up until recently sounded like you were indifferent and ok if he got another year.

I was done when I talked to a certain Bama transfer two summers ago. I agree with you Grant isn't incompetent or a bad coach. But what I saw on the court was confirmed from an insider that he isn't a great coach. Good perhaps but not a coach worthy of a top 25 salary and stewardship of the historical #2-#3 program in the SEC. That's when he lost me and the last 2 years have done nothing to disuade me.

Lettuce Nturtaneu said...

The time has come. For either to succeed we must part now.

RichTide said...

And of course the big fish that got away...Lacey.

RichTide said...

If Grant retained, very strong possibility there will be 2 likely transfers, perhaps as many as 4. Yes, this team is close and really like playing with each other but parents have great influence too, and some believe their sons have pro potential that is not being realized. I only have it second and third hand, but there are some unhappy parents. Doesn't help when there are solid examples of transfers (Hankerson, Pollard, Lacey, Justin Knox, etc) having good success elsewhere. Anyone here think Releford wouldn't have been as successful, if not more, at Arkansas, Ole Miss or Vandy?

RichTide said...

Andy Kennedy isn't getting heat because he has beaten top 25 teams, won on the road effectively, and puts a decent product on the court. He runs a clean program and is a good game coach. If I was an OIe Miss fan I wouldn't be calling for his head. Would I want more? Yea, but Ole Miss hasn't traditionally been a top 3 SEC program. We've been there, we should expect more.

Msmilie said...

I think it would be for the good of the program, but I also think it would be good for Anthony Grant. I like the guy and want him to succeed. For a guy who enjoyed the success he had as an assistant at Florida and as a head coach at VCU, the struggles to get Alabama off the ground have to be frustrating for the guy. Maybe a change of scenery would help him regain the mojo he had prior to his hire at Alabama. Meanwhile, the program can bring in a new face, new ideas, and hopefully a spark. As I said, I will support the guy if he is retained, but, based on the last two seasons, it's not a safe gamble for the university at this point. Better to blow it up now, make a hire, and hope the next staff can get it done. The short-term effects could be rough, but, if the right hire is made, the long-term effects will be worth it.

I respectfully disagree about "promoting" a program. I really don't place a great deal of the responsibility for that on a coaching staff. The university hires people to promote their athletic product. It's not written in a coach's contract that he should also be a carnival barker. Patterson and Murphy do great work in promoting their respective programs, but if they weren't winning it wouldn't matter. Grant could be front and center promoting this program, but the fans still aren't going to show up for 13-19 and 18-14 teams. He wasn't a vibrant personality his first 3-4 years either, but his teams were winning some games, and had the look of a program moving in a positive direction. That has halted the last two seasons, and a majority of the fans with it.

Msmilie said...

Parents have the right to be unhappy (it is their children after all), but the obsession that parents have regarding the pro potential for a lot of these kids is sickening. It handicaps coaches trying to coach a kid when the family of that kid is telling them something different once they leave the practice floor. Unless the players you're referring to have a parent who was a former player or scout for the NBA, those parents should really step back and let their kids naturally develop as people and players instead of worrying about their ability to siphon money from the kid's talent.

CTider said...

UAB makes the NCAAT. We'll be sitting at home again. I Wonder how BB and PBJ feel about that.

finebammer said...

if there is a God in heaven, please:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ-rWDOW0PU&spfreload=10

finebammer said...

fire in the belly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yTDl_ovc8A&spfreload=10

citadeltidefan said...

I actually wouldn't mind if we hired Kennedy. Although, I don't think he would come. Ole Miss is easily the worst team historically in SEC basketball, we have been to almost 3 times as many NCAA tournaments that they have. Considering that I think what he's accomplished at Ole Miss is similar (although not as impressive) to what James Franklin achieved at Vandy in football. They came the closet to any team at beating UK this season. The guy has proven that he can upset top teams throughout his career and won a conference tourney.

citadeltidefan said...

He's was a good NBA coach and player plus he's got a great personality but he has no college coaching experience. Although at this point I would prefer us take a risk on just about anybody instead of having CAG back.

finebammer said...

this guy is a winner. he will make us a winner. you put him in a home in front of momma and daddy and he'll bring home the bacon.


hand him the keys and pop your popcorn.

RichTide said...

I agree. But it's the sad reality of the big bad world of D1 sports. I remember the nightmares Mo Williams', Gerald Wallace's, and slew of other dads gave xCMG.

Heck I had CLUB volleyball parents give me grief about playing time for their 13/14/15 year old daughers and how I was ruining their chances for a D1 scholly. Unreal.

RichTide said...

Don't read too much into my comments. I agree the coach shouldn't have to promote the program. Yet the start reality of Bama hoops right now is that you do. (Patterson/ Duckworth and Murphy do it every year still and they have won NCs!) If you are not football,...at Bama...you will always have to do some level of self-promotion. Grant has donw near zero. To his credit, I don't think he had any clue it was a significant part of the job. He came from Florida where Foley was all in and at VCU it was THE sport. With an archaic coliseum, terrible seating layout, and no Ath Dept support, like it or not you have to be a carnival barker. I'll never forget the white out game against Miss St with SEC reg season on the line and xCMG had to shell out $28K for the tshirts because he was told there was "no money in the budget." Meanwhile the next week, high roller boosters would be cruising with Mike Shula and staff in the Caribbean. I'm sure that cost the University more than $25K.

Coach Curry is a good example of your latter point. Despite a terrible product (1-for a zillion) the crowds were good because of her relentless promotion. Every game had a non-Star Wars promotion and she and the team were out and about in the community. She inherited a dumpster fire and with no talent, beat many top 25 teams. Success will come and because of that hope, butts are in seats. With the men's program, there is no sign of things changing or improving. It's on a downward spiral and no one wants a part of that.

I went to the VCU game in Richmond a couple of years back. The fans still thought highly of Grant but were were not missing him. They thought he was a good coach but after Smart realized he wasn't a great coach. They were sad to lose him at the time but thrilled they had Smart instead. They appeared truly disappointed for Grant he wasn't having better success at Bama. About half said there were enough troubling signs in his coaching style (time out mgmt, substitution patterns, lack of offensive philosophy other than playing keep away and limiting possession for the other team, passive with the officials, etc) that would probably keep Bama from becoming a great program and the other half pretty much said don't be greedy, we dominate in football.

I hated that Tommy Amaker didn't do better at Michigan. I don't fault them for firing him and happy that he's killing it at Harvard. I was THRILLED with the Grant hire and hate he didn't pan out at Bama. I hope he kills it somewhere else, even if it's at another SEC school. He's represented Bama with class. However, there a many great men coaching who are also winning and parents/kids have options. Yes there are some true slimeballs, but Grant isn't the only great mentor of young men.

Like you said, maybe a change would be good for him too. If he stays, surely he can't be looking forward to next year.

RichTide said...

PBJ doesn't give a crap about bball. But a couple other BOTers do and UAB making it will sit like a chicken bone in their throat. Had Pearl upset Ky, Grant would have been gone seconds by the end of the day.

finebammer said...

larry brown. 74. won the American conference with SMU, the first college team he's ever head coached. currently battling UConn in their conference tourney championship.

don't tell me a NBA coach can't coach a college team.

Drifter said...

I like Brown, but he coached at Davidson, UCLA and Kansas before SMU.
:) He's been coaching a looooong time.

finebammer said...

correctamundo, drift. (blush)

DJC said...

The BOT should be happy about UAB making the tournament, you know, seeing as how they are PART OF THE UA SYSTEM! Generally when a UA school does something positive that will generate interests and money, I would hope the board would be pleased.