Now that Mark Gottfried‘s exit as head coach of the Alabama basketball team is official, athletic director Mal Moore and university president Robert Witt have an important decision to make in replacing him. Not quite as crucial as the search for a new football coach two years ago after Mike Shula was released, but hell it’s the end of January and basketball is an appropriate topic right now.
So who will ‘Bama hire as its next head basketball coach? So early in the process, DCT gives its top 2 potential candidates:
1. ANTHONY GRANT
Current Position: Head Coach, Virginia Commonwealth
Miami Central Senior High School, Assistant (1987-1992)
Miami Central Senior High School, Head Coach (1992-1993)
Stetson, Assistant (1993-1994)
Marshall, Assistant (1994-1996)
Florida, Assistant (1996-2006)
Alma Mater: Dayton small forward (1983-87)
Why?: When Billy Donovan left Marshall for Florida in 1996, he brought Grant as an assistant. With tremendous talent, much of which Grant had a huge hand recruiting to Gainesville, the Gators made it to the national championship game in 2000. Many of the players on Donovan’s ’06 and ’07 national title teams were brought to UF by the young assistant. Donovan is one of the best, if not THE best, in the college game, and his successful methods have clearly rubbed off on his apprentice.
In 2006, Grant was named the head coach of Virginia Commonwealth University. The Rams of VCU were a pretty good team when he took over, having been polished by prior head coach Jeff Capel, who left VCU for Oklahoma following the ’05-’06 season. Capel’s squad had been to the NCAA Tournament two seasons before Grant came in but never won more than 20 games under Capel. **VCU won 23 games during 2003-2004 under Capel. In his first year leading VCU, Grant led the Rams to a whopping 28 wins and a charge into the second round of March Madness. In his second season, VCU won 24 games but barely missed out on a NCAA Tourney berth. When Donovan almost left for the Orlando Magic last year, Grant was the leading candidate to replace him at Florida.
So far this season, VCU is 15-5 and 8-1 in the Colonial Conference. So the guy can obviously coach. Arguably, another plus for a hiring of this young leader is the fact that it would be Alabama’s first black head basketball coach. While it’s unfortunate that race is often dragged into any conversation when an SEC school is looking for a new coach in football or basketball, Grant’s race is irrelevant when it comes to his ability and potential. It would be a positive for the Tide if it hired him, but he’d probably be the leading candidate if he was white, green, blue, or magenta.
He knows the SEC and was mentored by the best, and he can coach on his own.
Why Not?: Very little argument against this potential hire or its possibility.
2. TUBBY SMITH
Current Position: Minnesota, Head Coach
Head Coach – Kentucky (1997-2007): Georgia (1995-1997); Tulsa (1991-1995); Hoke County High School (1978-1979); Great Mills High School (1975-1978 )
Assistant – Kentucky (1989-1991); South Carolina (1986-1989); Virginia Commonwealth (1979-1986)
Alma Mater: High Point College (1969-1973)
Why?: Smith’s record at UK speaks for itself, a national title, five SEC regular season crowns, five SEC tournament championships, six Sweet Sixteens, and four Elite Eights. He reached 100 wins faster than any UK coach in history except legend Adolph Rupp. In his second season at Minnesota, Smith has led the Gophers to their best start in school history (17-3 so far). Many arguing Smith as a legitimate candidate note that former Alabama head coach C.M. Newton hired him to Kentucky in 1997 when Newton was the athletic director in Lexington. So there’s a connection, but when is there not some connection these days?
Why Not?: Smith may not be willing to return to the SEC for a third different school’s HC position. While UA does not demand much from its basketball program, the fan base can turn pretty rabid, as evidenced by its criticism of Gottfried. However, surely ‘Bama fans, boosters, and the administration would be more than happy to visit the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight every year.
Other Names Being Tossed around: Mike Anderson Davis, UAB Head Coach and former UA player; Brad Stevens, Butler Head Coach; Scott Drew, Baylor Head Coach
Would Be Neat But Off the Wall: Wimp Sanderson; C.M. Newton himself. Both old, but both awesome.