The gang is getting back together again.
Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan on Monday announced that former assistant Anthony Grant will rejoin the program to replace assistant Matt McCall, who left the team Sunday evening to take the head coaching job at Chattanooga.
Grant, who joined Donovan’s first Florida coaching staff as an assistant from 1996-2006, left after the Gators’ first national title to take over as head coach at VCU. He was hired by Alabama in 2009 but released by the school this offseason after serving nine combined seasons as a head coach at both stops.
“Pretty easy call, man. It’s all about relationships,” said Grant in Florida’s announcement of his hiring. “Pretty much everyone in that office is like family to me. So this is like coming home. The way it all worked out? God has a plan.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to getting down there and doing what I love to do. I have a lot to get familiar with. I’m the new guy coming in. I know Billy and the staff were disappointed with the results last year, but there are some good pieces in place, and the roster, I feel, will be talented next season.”
Grant is the second former Gators assistant to return to Gainesville, Florida, after departing to take the reigns of a program. Donovan re-hired John Pelphrey, also a member of Donovan’s first Gators coaching staff (1996-2002), ahead of the 2011-12 season after Pelphrey was released by Arkansas.
The 2015-16 campaign will be Grant’s 13th and Pelphrey’s 11th under Donvoan as each also spent two seasons with him at Marshall (1994-96).
Grant went 76-26 at VCU with three postseason (two NCAA Tournament) appearances but was just 117-85 (54-49 SEC) at Alabama with one NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons.
Donovan, who went 10-0 against Grant while his then-former assistant was at Alabama, went to bat for his friend when asked about his potential for being fired following the 2014-15 campaign.
“I don’t think I’m biased. I’ve been around the game for a long time. I don’t think that people have any idea how great of a coach Anthony Grant is, and I saw it firsthand,” Donovan began.
“I would say that the one thing that I respect about Anthony is he took over a very challenging and difficult situation. He had a couple of very talented players that really kind of went through some disciplinary problems. He’s obviously battling with some injuries right now. He had a really good player that transferred out. I think Anthony’s been playing catch up a lot. I think that in terms of X’s and O’s, coaching, recruiting, all those kind of things, he’s phenomenal. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around. …
“I would tell you, as a parent, there’s not a coach in the country I would want my son to play for [more] than Anthony Grant. And you know what? Even if they did not have a winning season or he didn’t have a successful four years there, him becoming a man, as a father, would be a lot more important than if he won a lot of games, he cut down some nets. … If people are upset with the outcomes, that they should have won more, I get it. But you’re not going to tell me that, as a guy, that those kids are not better off for playing for Anthony Grant.
“So, I think if Anthony stays, doesn’t stay, they let him go, I think it’s the biggest mistake. Let’s put it this way: Alabama better hope he comes back, that’s what I would say.”
Suffice to say, Donovan is please to have his old friends back in Gainesville.
“Obviously, Anthony is one of my best friends,” Donovan said in the school release. “He’s also a great coach.”