UMass hires Anthony Grant’s friend, former high school teammate

Friends coach against each other in A-10 seven years after coaching against each other in SEC

Anthony Grant had a long hug for Massachusetts coach Matt McCall after the Dayton Flyers beat the Minutemen 75-72 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on March 11. It was the last game after five seasons for McCall, who worked with Grant on Billy Donovan’s staff at Florida early in his career. UMass had announced 10 days earlier he wouldn’t return.

Now UMass has a new coach with an even deeper connection to Grant. The school announced the hiring of Frank Martin, who graduated with Grant from Miami High School in 1983, on Friday.

Martin so admires Grant he once wrote a college paper about him.

It was about “how hard he worked, how humble he is, how engaging he is as a person, his willingness to sacrifice for others, his ability to lead at the age of 16,” Martin told reporters in 2012. “That’s the kind of person that he was since we were 14, 15 years old.”

Martin is the latest high-profile coach to enter the A-10. Rhode Island’s new coach is Archie Miller, the former Dayton and Indiana coach. George Washington and La Salle are also looking for new coaches.

Grant was the star of Miami’s team in 1983, according a Miami Herald story from 2009, and Martin was a team manager who practiced with the team.

“Anthony would never pass me the ball,” Martin told the Miami Herald. “And why would you? I wasn’t very good.”

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Martin became the junior varsity coach at 20 after graduation, while Grant played at Dayton. At one point after Grant’s college career ended, Grant and Martin coached on the staff of their former high school coach, Shakey Rodriguez. Then Martin became the varsity coach at 29 for the program Rodriguez led to five state titles.

Martin worked at Miami High until 1993 and remained a high school coach until 2000 when he became an assistant coach at Northeastern University in Boston. He worked on Bob Huggins’ staff at Cincinnati from 2004-06 and then followed Huggins to Kansas State. When Huggins left Kansas State after one season, Martin got the head coaching job, which he held for five seasons before moving to South Carolina in 2012.

Martin was 171-147 in 10 seasons at South Carolina and took the program to the Final Four in 2017, the same year Grant was hired at Dayton. South Carolina fired Martin on March 14 after an 18-13 season and a fifth straight season in which it failed to make the NCAA tournament.

When Dayton and UMass play next season, it will be the first time Martin and Grant have coached against each other since both were in the Southeastern Conference: Martin at South Carolina and Grant at Alabama. They split four games from 2013-2015.

When Grant was at Alabama and Martin was at Kansas State, they played twice. No. 23 Alabama lost 71-58 to Kansas State in Kansas City, Mo., in 2011.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Frank and what he’s been able to accomplish with his program and the way his guys compete,” Grant said before that game. “It’ll be great to see him, but I’m not looking forward to playing his team — not only because he’s my friend, but because he’s got a very good team.”

Two years earlier, the coaches faced each other for the first time. Neither wanted to play the game. It was scheduled before Grant got the Alabama job in 2007, according to an Associated Press report at the time. Kansas State, which was ranked 17th at the time, won that game against Alabama 87-74 at the Coors Classic in Mobile, Al.

“If he would have been the head coach at Alabama, we never would have signed,” Martin said then. “They wouldn’t have signed it. We wouldn’t have signed it. I don’t enjoy playing friends. I like winning too much. If we lose, I’m (angry). When we win and I know my guy on the other sideline didn’t find success that night, then I (feel) pain for him. It’s a no-win situation for me, so I don’t enjoy it.”

Grant and Martin have known each other since 10th grade, and Grant is the godfather of Martin’s oldest son, Brandon, who was born on the same day as a child Grant and his wife Christ lost. That child was also named Brandon.

“He’s always been the person I’ve relied on because he’s so level-headed,” Martin said in 2009. “He’s so good at making decisions. He’s always been, since we were kids, the person that I’ve relied on as a voice of reason.”

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