Athletic Director Neil Sullivan called the Dayton head men's basketball coaching position a "destination job" when the University of Dayton hired Anthony Grant in March of 2017. Almost three years later, as the 2019-20 season heads down the stretch, there are few better places to be in college basketball — just five if you go by the Associated Press top-25 poll.
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Grant has turned himself into a national coach of the year candidate as his program reaches new heights with every victory. Twenty five games into the season, there is every reason to believe this could be the greatest season in school history. No. 6 Dayton (23-2, 12-0) is five wins away from tying the school record for victories in a season set by the 1951-52 team (28-5).
Sullivan attended Saturday’s game at Massachusetts with Mac, one of his three sons. Like Grant, Sullivan’s not looking at the big picture with this team just yet, but he understands why the fans and media are looking ahead to March and dreaming about this team doing something big.
“You can’t tell people in this town not to enjoy it,” Sullivan said, “and we enjoy it. But at the end of the day, our goals haven’t changed, and there’s still a lot to go.”
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Dayton won its 14th straight game by beating UMass 71-63. It has already reached the win total that got it into the NCAA tournament in 2014, the year it reached the Elite Eight, but until a bid is assured and until the A-10 championship has been clinched, Sullivan and Grant will be on the same page.
That’s also true when talking about Grant’s future. Dayton announced contract extension for Archie Miller 36 hours after the team reached the Sweet 16 in 2014 and more extensions in March of 2015 and March of 2016.
Asked if any announcement like that might be coming soon regarding Grant, Sullivan said he would keep those conversations between him and the coach. He added, “He knows what this place means to him, and I know what he means to us. … I talk with coach Grant daily. We’re together. We’re aligned in what our expectations are, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
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Dayton’s success has raised its national profile. For the first time in its history, it has a player in Obi Toppin who could win national player of the year. Sullivan always thought this was possible at Dayton.
“We believe we’re a national-caliber program,” he said. “In order to be that, you have to have national-caliber players. That’s what we believe. That’s what we pursue. That’s how our coaches recruit. They trust their eyes. They don’t get caught up in stars and this and that.”
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