Anthony Grant returned to UD Arena in December 2011 as the head coach at Alabama. He knew what to expect: a hostile environment.
“It’s been a long time,” Grant said at the time, “but if it’s anything like when I played, it’s obviously one of the best home environments in the country.”
That knowledge played a part in Grant, a 1987 University of Dayton graduate, taking the head coaching job at Dayton. On Thursday, one week after the announcement of his hiring, he talked about his plans for the weeks and months ahead: getting to know his current players, trying to convince the incoming recruits to stay and building a coaching staff.
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Grant is building the foundation for what he hopes to accomplish next season. He’s 0-1 at UD Arena as a head coach. Alabama was ranked 16th in the country when it lost 74-62 to the Flyers in 2011.
It will be different when Grant debuts as head coach in November. The crowd will be behind him. After two seasons in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Grant will return to the college game. The last time a UD grad debuted as head coach of the Flyers was 1964. Don Donoher beat Niagara 95-64 in his first game.
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Grant is certainly the most experienced coach Dayton has ever hired. He’s 193-110 in three seasons at Virginia Commonwealth and six at Alabama.
“I feel like I’m a lot more seasoned, having done this a couple times before,” Grant said. “The experience of coaching 100-some games in the NBA, I feel I’m more ready for the things we’ll see. I’ve been down this road before. There’s a familiar feeling. There’s always a level of excitement and anticipation in terms of what you’ve got ahead of you. It feels good. I’m excited to be at the University of Dayton. I’m excited to be at my alma mater.”
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Grant had never coached in the NBA until he joined Billy Donovan’s staff with the Thunder. He said the pro game is different than the college game because it’s all about basketball.
“In college, it’s about developing those relationships with recruits and coaches, the mentoring,” Grant said. “There’s a lot of things you touch in college that you don’t get to touch or aren’t asked to touch (in the NBA). It’s a different game in a lot of ways. The kids at this level, they play because they love it. It’s a passion. You always want an opportunity to do it as long as you can and at the highest level you can. I understand that’s the goal. I think I’ll be able to take some of those experiences from doing that for two years and try to help some of these kids understand what it takes to be elite.”
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Grant’s new players have classes until April 28 and then exams the following week. He said players were working with the strength and conditioning coach, Patrick O’Neal, when he arrived on campus, and he wants them to continue with that the rest of the month, while focusing on classes.
Grant plans to get on the court with the players soon so he can start to teach them his terminology and the system he wants to implement.
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“The plan once the summer hits,” Grant said, “is we need to start jelling as a team in terms of implementing the system and style of playing and getting these guys acclimated to myself and the new system. The summertime will be an important time for us.”
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