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Bama’s Grant Has Built Two Final Four Teams This Year

The hottest name in the coaching world today is Shaka Smart.  VCU’s second-year coach has his Rams all the way through to the Final Four.  It’s a near-miracle run for a team that most ESPN pundits pointed to as the least deserving at-large team in the field.

But while America gushes over Smart’s run — and we at quietly murmur a warning: “Stan Heath” — some credit should be given to the guy who built the VCU team with which Smart is excelling. 

When Anthony Grant takes his Crimson Tide into its NIT semifinal game against Colorado tonight, Bama’s coach can know that he’s had a hand in two Final Four runs this year.  He built the roster for VCU’s journey and he’s coaxed 24 wins out of the roster he inherited — to a large degree — from Mark Gottfried.

At VCU, Grant recruited the Rams’ current juniors and seniors.  Here’s what Kansas Bill Self had to say about them after Sunday’s loss to VCU:  “You can usually tell who can really recruit, what programs do the best job recruiting, because they’re playing with the guys that you look at them when they’re juniors and seniors and think, ‘How in the world did they get them?’  VCU’s program has done that.”

Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News takes that comment, combines it with Grant’s record in his second year at Bama and says UA’s young coach will have the Tide in an NCAA Final Four “sooner rather than later.”

At Alabama, the only current starter signed by Grant is excellent freshman point guard Trevor Releford.  The rest of the main pieces were left behind by Gottfried.

“He left behind a nice nucleus, which Anthony has molded into his image defensively and intensity-wise and grittiness,” said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla.  “It’s all Anthony Grant basketball now.”

Yes, it is.  And way things have played out might be even more impressive than had the coach built and taken one squad to a Final Four.  Grant showed that he can build a high-caliber roster at VCU.  Then he moved to a new school and has shown that he can coach-up the pieces he inherited.

We at aren’t ready to declare Grant to be one of the nation’s elite coaches yet.  At some point, he’ll have to take a team he’s built and coach it deep into the NCAA tourney.  And we also remember that John Pelphrey and Trent Johnson got off to fast starts in the SEC, too, only to cool quickly.  There are no guarantees.

But when it comes to Grant, there’s no denying that his work at Bama and his previous work at VCU certainly suggest the Crimson Tide program is headed in the right direction.

Next step: Tonight at 9pm ET versus Colorado at Madison Square Garden.



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