Archdeacon: Clinic takes UD coach Anthony Grant back home

Anthony Grant always has been willing to travel to be a part of one of coach Shakey Rodriguez’s basketball efforts.

Back in the early 1980s – after his family moved from the tough Brownsville section of Miami to a safer neighborhood in North Miami – Grant had a long early-morning commute each day to get to Miami Senior High School where he could be part of Rodriguez’s successful Stingarees basketball program.

“I had to take two buses,” Grant recalled a couple of afternoons ago as he sat at his desk in the University of Dayton basketball offices.

“School started at 7:30, so I caught the No. 7 bus downtown at about 6 a.m., then got a transfer and took the next one to Flagler Avenue to get to school.”

Three and a half decades later, Grant – now the Flyers head coach – is again making a long trek to join a Rodriguez hoops venture. He’s catching a flight this weekend to Miami to take part in the 2019 Shakey’s Basketball Clinic, a Saturday and Sunday tutorial for coaches at Mater Academy Charter in Hialeah Gardens, which is adjacent to Miami.

The 66-year-old Rodriguez coaches the school’s powerhouse basketball team, which this season will be led by 6-foot-7 sophomore Malik Reneau, already one of the top players in Florida.

This is the sixth year Rodriguez has put on a clinic and this rendition offers a talented array of name college coaches.

A couple of others have Miami High connections. South Carolina’s Frank Martin was Grant’s teammate in high school and he later coached the Stings. And Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards played at Miami High when Grant was a assistant coach there under Rodriguez. Later he was on Grant’s staff at VCU.

This year’s clinic also includes West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, the Miami Hurricanes Jim Larranaga and several other coaches.

All have a connection to Rodriguez, who – in nearly 35 years as a head coach at three high schools and at Florida International University, where he spent five years – has close to 750 victories

“That the clinic draws all these coaches is a tribute to Shakey and the respect he has across the country,” Grant said.

And no one appreciates him more than the UD coach.

He played for him and then, after finishing his own college career with the Flyers, he returned to Miami High and became Rodriguez’s assistant for five years. In that time the Stingarees won three state titles.

And when Grant got married, Rodriguez served as his best man.

“I owe him a great deal in my life,” Grant said. “I first met him when I was maybe 13 or 14 and he’s had a big impact on my life – teaching and nurturing and being a friend – ever since.

“I think my dad probably put it best. He said, ‘Shakey’s like a second father to you.’”

‘One of the greatest teammates I ever coached’

“Anthony’s parents were great people,” Rodriguez said. “They were all about making sure their kids got a good education. And one ended up a doctor and another a lawyer. They’re all successful.”

Initially, Grant’s parents had him and another son going to Belen High, an all-male Jesuit school in Miami. But when he decided he wanted to play basketball at Miami High, it was not an easy sell to his folks..

“I talked to his dad may times,” Rodriguez said. “I told him I’d look out for his son.”

At 6-foot-4, Grant was an undersized inside player for the Stingarees, but he ended up being the Dade County Player of the Year.

But that’s not the first thing Rodriguez brings up about him:

“As a player, he as one of the greatest teammates I ever coached. He really cared for other people. He’d get excited if one of his teammates made a nice play, even more so than if he’d done it himself.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a better human being. He’s as honest and decent of a man as you’ll find.”

Grant impressed his teammates too, especially Frank Martin, who then was a chubby backup on the team.

When Grant went to UD, Martin enrolled in a Miami junior college, where the first assignment for his English 101 class was to write about someone he admired.

He wrote about Grant.

“He really cared about people, his school and his friends,” Martin once told a reporter. “He walked in the hallways and the students and teachers all respected him. That’s something I’ve never forgotten.”

After coaching at Miami High, Martin worked as an assistant for Huggins at Cincinnati and Kansas State, before becoming the head coach at Kansas State and then at South Carolina.

And he made Grant the godfather of one of his sons.

Introduction to coaching

When Grant returned to Miami after graduating from UD, he played briefly for the Miami Tropics of the old United States Basketball League and then showed up at Rodriguez’s office one day.

He wanted his old coach to line him up with Bob Kaufman, the former Stingarees’ assistant who had coached Shakey in high school and given him the nickname that replaced his first name (Marcos) because he was a hyperkinetic player who couldn’t stand still.

Kaufman had become the head coach at nearby Killian High and had talked to Grant about joining his staff.

“I remember looking at him like he was nuts and saying, ‘What? You want to coach? I thought you were going into business or something?’” Rodriguez said.

“He said, no, he wanted to try coaching and I said, ‘Well, then this is where you need to be!’

“We walked to the principal’s office and I went in for five minutes and when I came out, Anthony went in and they hired him to teach math and help coach.”

Rodriguez started to laugh: “And Kaufman didn’t talk to me for a year.”

As a young coach Grant was overly conscientious Rodriguez said with a chuckle:

“I remember I sent him out to scout once – I just wanted to get some of the tendencies of the guys we were playing next – and he came back with three pages of notes. He was up at the board writing all of that down and finally I had to say, ‘Ant, Ant..,we don’t need all that.’

“’We’re gonna beat the (crap) out of these guys anyways.’

“He was young and really a detailist. He was just very meticulous.”

Rodriguez said Grant grew into a tremendous coach, something evidenced by his rise a from Miami High assistant to head coach at Miami Central High and then assistant jobs at Stetson, Marshall and Florida before becoming the head coach at VCU and then Alabama. Before UD, he was Billy Donovan’s assistant with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

But the other day, when Grant talked about destiny in his return to Miami High, he wasn’t referring to basketball.

Before he moved away from Brownsville as a seventh grader, Grant had lived two doors down from the grandmother of a girl a couple of years younger than him. Her name was Christina Harrell.

He knew who she was, but after he moved they went their own ways for a dozen years or so.

When he started working at Miami High he said he went to a talent show in the city one night and one of the acts featured three young women singing.

He said his friend asked him: “’You remember that one girl? That’s Chris.’”

He reacquainted himself wither her that night, they began to date and eventually they married.

Today they have four kids and she sits a few rows behind the Flyers bench at home games in UD Arena.

“It was meant to be,” Grant said with a smile. “Some things are just meant to be.”

And Shakey Rodriguez says the same thing about him when it comes to coaching.

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