VCU's head coach and longtime Billy Donovan assistant Anthony Grant is the new hot coaching prospect in the college basketball ranks.
Rightfully so. Since he got the job before the 2006-2007 season, the Rams have gone 76-24 and 45-9 in the CAA, winning three straight regular season conference titles and two tournament titles. And let's not forget about their upset of Duke in the 2007 tournament. Before that, he was an assistant to Billy Donovan for 11 years, ten of them at Florida where he helped build a team that reached three Final Fours and won two titles.
Hell, he was the guy that was going to replace Donovan at Florida in 2007 had Billy not pulled out of the deal with the Orlando Magic.
If he was ever going to leave VCU, now would probably be a good time. His star point guard, and possible first round draft pick, Eric Maynor is graduating, and who knows if sophomore
Stretch Armstrong Larry Sanders will be returning to school (Draft Express has him projected as a lottery pick in 2010).
(Ed. Note: Funny story we've heard about Sanders - he didn't start playing organized ball until his sophomore year in high school, and in his first varsity game, he scored on the wrong basket at the start of the second half because he didn't know they switched ends. His quote about it was "My IQ for the game was very low". You can't make this stuff up.)
Grant's name has been mentioned at a number of schools with openings - Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama, who apparently are willing to offer Grant $2 million a year.
All three schools are a step up from the CAA. All three schools will be able to throw some dollars at him.
But Grant may want to wait a few days before signing anything.
There may be a much more appealing job opening up.
Kentucky lost to Notre Dame in the Elite 8 of the NIT tonight, ending a disappointing season for the Wildcats. After starting the year 16-4 and SEC play 5-0, the Cats tumbled, losing 8 of 11 to end the season with a 19-11 record, just 8-8 in the SEC.
What makes it all the worse is that Kentucky had two of the best players in the conference on their roster. Jodie Meeks was being talked about as a national player of the year candidate after he put up a school record (for Kentucky none the less, that means something) 54 points against Tennessee earlier in the season.
This is bad news. Kentucky is not a place that tolerates losing. Tubby Smith, who had won a national title in 1998 with the Wildcats, was run out of town because, among other things, of subpar recruiting and the fact that he hadn't reached a Final Four in nine seasons after winning the title. Smith had reached four more Elite 8's, won four more SEC regular season title as well as four more SEC tournament titles, but that wasn't enough.
So is a first round exit and NIT Elite 8 enough?
If you believe Jeff Goodman, then Billy Gillispie may have coached his last game in Lexington. We touched on this pretty extensively a few weeks back, so I'll give you the short version. All coaches deserve a grace period. Two years is just flat out not enough time to prove your worth as a coach. You need time to get in your players and teach them your system, and regardless of whetheror not you have all-americans on the court, if they are not buying into the way you want them to play, as a coach you are not going to succeed.
But it is more than just results with Gillispie. By all accounts, the guy is a prick. He has problems dealing with the media and doesn't know how to handle his players (how many UK players have left the program?) or the administration. Oh, and he may be an alcoholic.
When a program is winning, you can handle a coach with questionable ethics and personal skills, just as a struggling program is less likely to fire a coach when he is a great guy. But when a coach is losing and is disliked by, well, everyone (?), that coach is going to have a very short leash.
Which is why Grant should hold off on making a decision on where to head next.
If Gillispie is, in fact, let go by Kentucky, most are suggesting that the Wildcats will take a run at Billy Donovan. Donovan's Gators have gone to two straight NIT's, and if Nick Calathes turns pro this spring, a third straight NIT may be a reach.
The idea of Donovan taking the Kentucky job is not that much of a stretch. And if Florida wanted Grant in 2007 after just one season as a head coach, is it not reasonable to assume they would still want him when he is the hottest commodity in college hoops?
And if Donovan passes on the Kentucky job, is not reasonable to assume the Wildcats next option would be to go after "the next Billy Donovan"?
So Coach Grant, if you read this: wait a few days before making any decisions.