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AP photos from today's game.
In four seasons since taking over as head coach of the Alabama men's basketball program, Anthony Grant looks to continue the momentum he has built during his time at the helm of the Crimson Tide.
Coming into the 2013-14 season, Grant has led his team to three consecutive postseason appearances, including a pair of National Invitation Tournament berths (2011 NIT runners-up and 2013 NIT Quarterfinals), as well as an at-large selection to the 2012 NCAA Tournament - Alabama's first NCAA appearance since 2006.
Following a 23-win campaign this past year, Grant has now guided UA to three consecutive 20-win seasons, which is first time that has been achieved at Alabama since the 1990, 1991 and 1992 seasons - a span of just over 20 years. In fact, Grant has racked up 69 wins in the past three years (2011, 2012 and 2013), going 69-37 (.651) over that span. Furthermore, UA's 33 SEC victories in the past three years are third to only Kentucky (38) and Florida (37).
In addition to leading UA to three straight 20-win campaigns, he has also led the Tide an over .500 record in Southeastern Conference play for a third consecutive season, including a 12-6 mark and a second-place finish in league play in 2012-13. It marks the first time since the 1994, 1995 and 1996 seasons an Alabama team has had three years with an above .500 record against conference competition.
Grant boasts a record of 86-52 (.623) during his four years at the Capstone, and an overall record of 162-77 (.678) during his seven seasons as a head coach. He has now led his teams to six postseason showings (three NITs and three NCAAs) and six 20-win seasons during his Division I head coaching career.
For the third time in as many years, his team's aggressive, disruptive and disciplined style resulted in one of the top defenses in the nation. This past season, Alabama led the SEC in conference games only with 9. 1 steals per game and ranked second in the league and 18th nationally in scoring defense, holding the opposition to an average of 58.4 points per game. In fact, the Tide held 24 of 36 opponents to below 60 points in a game this past year.
It was more of the same during the 2011-12 campaign as Alabama produced over 20 wins, while also holding 31 of its 33 opponents below their season scoring averages. In fact, the Tide's defense allowed an average of 58.1 points per game, the ninth lowest average in the nation and sixth lowest in SEC history.
Alabama's defensive numbers, although staggering enough alone, are even more impressive when taking into consideration the competition the Tide faced during the season as its strength of schedule was the 29th toughest in the nation and the third toughest in the SEC in 2012.
Following the first full year in his system to acclimate themselves to producing 94 feet of pressure on both offense and defense, Grant's 2010-11 team rebounded from a trying start to win 25 games and the Southeastern Conference Western Division title. Renewed enthusiasm surrounded the team in the form of five sellout crowds at Coleman Coliseum as fans helped make the Tide's home court one of the toughest in the nation with UA posting a sterling 19-0 home record.
Three of those home wins came in the Tide's first postseason appearance since 2007 with a berth in the National Invitation Tournament. Harnessing the frustration of just barely missing out on the NCAA field the Tide cruised through its first three NIT opponents by an average of 15 points to advance to Madison Square Garden and the NIT Final Four for the sixth time in school history. A victory over Colorado propelled the Tide to its second NIT championship game where it fell to Wichita State.
Along the way to the NIT final, Grant's style of play helped make the Tide one of the best defenses in SEC history as UA allowed just 59.4 points per game, the top mark in the SEC and the eighth best in the nation.
His teams have been just as successful in the classroom with his 2009-10 and 2011-12 teams posting a perfect 1,000 score in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. He now has had five of his teams achieve the feat as he boasts a career APR score of 985. Furthermore, Alabama lead all SEC men's basketball programs in 2013 with six players - Carl Engstrom, Retin Obasohan, Levi Randolph, Andrew Steele, Dakota Slaughter and Isiah Wilson -being named to the SEC Academic Roll. In fact, Grant has now coached eight all-conference selections and 19 all-academic performers during his time at the Capstone.
On the recruiting trail, his resurgent Tide coupled with his high-energy style of play has drawn some of the nation's top recruits to Alabama. His incoming 2011 class was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally by rivals.com with four top-100 prospects.
Grant took the reins of the Tide on March 29, 2009, after a three-year stint at Virginia Commonwealth University where he led the Rams to a 24-10 record in 2008-09 and a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling to UCLA in the final seconds, 65-64. The NCAA appearance was the second in Grant's three-year tenure at VCU and third straight postseason appearance. At VCU, he amassed a 76-25 (.752) record and a 45-9 (.833) mark in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) games.
Additionally, his Rams won three-straight CAA regular-season championships and two CAA Tournament titles under his watch. In his two NCAA Tournament appearances he has a 1-2 record with a 79-77 upset win over Duke in the 2007 tournament. That season saw Grant lead the Rams to a program best 28-7 record and CAA Coach of the Year honors.
At VCU, Grant continued his legacy of developing future NBA stars as Eric Maynor was selected in the first round, 20th overall by the Utah Jazz. Under Grant's tutelage, Maynor became VCU's first lottery selection in 16 years and its first-ever first-round pick.
Maynor became the 13th Grant coached or recruited player and eighth first-rounder, to be selected in the NBA draft. In 2010, VCU's Larry Sanders became the 14th as the virtually un-recruited forward was taken 15th overall by Milwaukee Bucks with a year of tutelage under Grant.
A Miami, Fla., native, Grant is no stranger to the Southeastern Conference having served 10 years on the staff at Florida, five years (1996-2001) as an assistant coach and five years as associate head coach under Billy Donovan (2002-06). Grant helped lead the Gators to their first national title in 2006 and laid the groundwork for UF's 2007 national championship before departing for VCU.
While on the Florida staff, the Gators won the SEC Tournament in 2005 and 2006, captured three SEC Eastern Division titles (2000, 2001 and 2002) and earned back-to-back SEC Championships in 2000 and 2001. In 1999 and 2000, the program made its first back-to-back `Sweet 16' appearances in school history and appeared in the national championship game in 2000. During Grant's time in Gainesville, the Gators advanced to the NCAA Tournament in eight straight seasons and compiled a 226-98 (.698) record.
Grant followed Donovan to Florida in 1996 after spending two seasons at Marshall (1994-96) as Donovan's top assistant. Prior to that, he spent one season as an assistant coach at Stetson (1993-94). Grant began his coaching career in the high school ranks in his hometown of Miami, Fla., where he won three state titles and was nationally ranked five times as an assistant at Miami Senior High School (1987-92) before serving one season as head coach at Miami Central High School (1992-93).
Noted as a strong recruiter, Grant recruited and coached nine McDonald's All-Americans and eight NBA first-round draft picks at Florida. Prior to Grant arriving at Florida, the Gators had just two first-round picks in school history.
Four of his last seven recruiting classes at UF were ranked in the top five nationally. At VCU his 2007 recruiting class was ranked as the fifth best in the mid-major ranks.
Prior to entering coaching, Grant played his collegiate career at the University of Dayton (1983-87), guiding the Flyers to a 70-49 (.588) overall mark, a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances, and one NIT berth. In his 105 appearances in a Flyer uniform, Grant registered 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and was named the team's Most Valuable Player as a senior.
Grant, who is the 19th men's head basketball coach in Alabama history, is married to the former Christina Harrell of Miami, Fla. They have three sons - Anthony, Preston and Makai - and one daughter, Jayda Danielle.