With Alabama announcing Sunday night that it fired former Florida assistant Anthony Grant, the inevitable questions have been raised if Grant would consider returning to Gainesville.
Grant was as an assistant under Donovan at both Marshall and Florida from 1994-2006. As a recruiter, Grant was instrumental in helping land Udonis Haslem and Corey Brewer, two building blocks that helped the Gators on an unprecedented run of success. Haslem helped lead the Gators to the 2000 NCAA title game, while Brewer was a starter on UF’s back-to-back national title teams in 2006 and 2007.
A former guard at Dayton and Miami native, Grant’s recruiting ties in South Florida remain strong. He also worked to develop UF post players Joakim Noah and Al Horford during UF’s national title runs.
“I don’t know how many people realize how good of a coach that Anthony Grant is,” Donovan said in defense of Grant at the SEC Tournament on Thursday. “I saw it first hand.”
For whatever reason, it didn’t work out for Grant at Alabama, and Donovan’s 10-0 record against his former assistant didn’t help matters. Grant led Alabama to just one NCAA Tournament in six years and never recovered from guard Trevor Lacey transferring to N.C. State and McDonald’s All-American forward Devonta Pollard being dismissed from school after a kidnapping arrest during that same offseason. Grant tried to fill some of the holes with transfers, but Tulane guard Ricky Tarrant couldn’t make it through a full season before going down with a foot injury and Longwood forward Michael Kessens wasn’t physical enough to compete in the SEC.
For Grant to return, it would take a current UF assistant to leave. John Pelphrey, who came back to Florida as an assistant in 2011 after being fired by Arkansas, appears content at Florida as Donovan’s top assistant. Any buzz of Pelphrey landing another head coaching job has died down in recent seasons
But younger assistants Matt McCall and Rashon Burno could be more fluid in that regard. McCall interviewed at Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville last offseason and is considered a bright young basketball mind capable of running a program. Burno has ties with Manhattan coach Steve Masiello and could join Masiello on a new staff if he lands a higher-profile job this offseason. Masiello was hired at USF, but the school backed off when a background check revealed Masiello didn’t complete his graduation from Kentucky. But Masiello finished his courses to get his degree over the summer and after leading Manhattan to a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, could be a hot candidate again for openings this offseason.
Grant has a $4 million buyout from Alabama ($1 million per year through 2019), so he has plenty of time to weigh his options. Grant could decide to give head coaching another try, after all, he had success VCU (two NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons and an upset of Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament) before being hired at Alabama. But another option for Grant would be to join Frank Martin’s staff at South Carolina. Grant and Martin are as close, if not closer, than Grant and Donovan. The two were boyhood friends who went to Miami High together and have remained tight during their respective coaching careers.