Dayton recently hired former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Anthony Grant to be its next head coach. Archie Miller had been the head coach since the 2011-12 season, but he decided to take the Indiana job for next year. Grant’s coaching career began at Florida where we has an assistant coach under Billy Donavan for 10 years. Grant then became the head coach of VCU in 2006 where he led the Rams to 2 NCAA Tournament appearances in 3 seasons as head coach. Grant climbed the ladder and became the head coach of Alabama where he made 1 Big Dance in 6 seasons as head coach. Grant became an assistant at Oklahoma City in 2015.
There’s definitely a lot of optimism regarding Grant’s position as Dayton’s next head coach, but some fans definitely have their doubts as well. Can Anthony Grant maintain the success that Archie Miller had at Dayton and retain this program’s status as one of the best mid-majors in the country? Only time will tell.
Positive #1: Anthony Grant has familiarity with Dayton and the conference
Anthony Grant played for the University of Dayton from 1983-1987 where he went to an Elite Eight with the Flyers. Though he wasn’t around for Dayton’s most recent deep tournament run, he’s been there before, just in a different position. Understanding the culture and the state of a school is always important. Knowing that Anthony Grant has been a Flyer should make Dayton fans more confident in his abilities; he’s genuinely going to be excited to coach at his alma mater, and he’s going to want to see this program succeed. Not only has he played in and coached multiple NCAA Tournament games, but he’s almost been to the Final Four. That should be the goal for this up-and-coming Dayton team, and it seems like Anthony Grant completely understands that.
Having coached at VCU when the Rams were in the CAA doesn’t exactly give Grant much insight into the Atlantic 10, but it does shed light on his ability to coach in a similar league. Leading the Rams to 2 NCAA Tournaments and pulling off an upset win over Duke shows that Grant has experience being the underdog. In the Atlantic 10, that’s what it’s all about. Dayton’s used to being a consistent contender in the conference, and fans don’t expect that to change under new management. Anthony Grant should have what it takes to keep UD competitive.
Negative #1: Anthony Grant was just so-so in the Southeastern Conference
The SEC is certainly a step up from the Atlantic 10, but it has, by no means, been the most difficult conference to play in throughout the past decade. While Grant had 3 consecutive 20+ win seasons during his tenure at Alabama, he followed that with an abysmal 13 win season and a 19 win year that kept the Crimson Tide in the NIT and lost Anthony Grant his job. 1 NCAA Tournament in 6 seasons of coaching is problematic for a team that’s made the Big Dance four years in a row. If I’m a Dayton fan, I’m going to be a little bit concerned about my team’s ability to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Sure, Grant was coaching in a more difficult league, but he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently lead his teams to postseason play. Sure, he was pretty consistent with VCU in the CAA, but the Atlantic 10 is a big step up, and Dayton’s been a team that lives off at-large bids.
Positive #2: Anthony Grant has experience coaching pro-level talent with a great head coach
Having Billy Donovan as your mentor is never a bad thing. Anthony Grant, having spent the last two seasons in the NBA, has gotten great experience working with professional players and exceptional talent. I guess this could be a blessing or a curse coming back down to the NCAA. No one at Dayton is Russel Westbrook, so there’s always the concern as to how his skills as a coach will translate back to the collegiate level. Looking at it from an optimistic perspective, it’s nice to know that Anthony Grant has worked at both levels and has sufficient experience in a number of areas. He’s coached some of the best players in the world, and he’s also coached mid-major talent in the NCAA. I think that well-rounded resume is going to help Grant be successful at Dayton. it feels like the perfect job for him. He’s inheriting a school that’s been successful as a program, and he’s got the coaching experience to lead the Flyers back to the Big Dance.
Negative #2: Anthony Grant doesn’t have much experience recruiting in the Midwest
Archie Miller was such a good fit for Dayton because he could recruit the heck out of Chicago and the midwest region. Anthony Grant, on the other hand, hasn’t had to recruit since 2015 as he’s been spending time at the NBA level, and he’s going to have to recruit from an area that he’s not too familiar with. The midwest may be more difficult to recruit from now that Illinois has Brad Underwood and Saint Louis has Travis Ford. Also, the rise of Chris Collins and Northwestern has made staying in state more appealing for Chicago kids. Almost all of Grant’s recruits during his time with the Crimson Tide came from Alabama. Most of the others came from the Southeast region. With the rise of the SEC this season in teams like South Carolina, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, it’s going to be difficult for Grant to harness former Alabama ties, especially having been away for the collegiate sphere for a few years. Anthony Grant is going to have to recruit, as Dayton graduates 4 key seniors this spring.