Alabama hires VCU coach Anthony Grant

Published 8:09 pm Friday, March 27, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Anthony Grant has been hired as Alabama’s coach after three successful years with Virginia Commonwealth, leaving a school with no football program to take over one where the gridiron reigns.

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore told The Associated Press on Friday evening that a deal had been reached. A formal agreement is expected to be signed later in the night.

“We have agreed. We haven’t signed the documents yet,” Moore said, adding that he expected to receive them shortly. Grant also said in a text message that he and Alabama had agreed “in principle” to the deal.

The 42-year-old Grant, a former Florida assistant, led VCU to two NCAA tournaments in three seasons. He becomes the most prominent black coach hired at Alabama and the first in the two major sports, football and men’s basketball.

Moore said Grant had already informed his team and VCU officials of his decision.

The hiring was first reported by The Birmingham News and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Moore and executive athletic director Dave Hart interviewed Grant in Richmond last weekend. He spent Wednesday touring Alabama’s campus and meeting with other university officials, then took nearly two days to weigh his options.

Grant replaces Mark Gottfried, who resigned under pressure from his alma mater in midseason with the team on its way to missing the postseason for the third straight year.

Grant has been an instant success — and hot commodity — as a head coach. After helping Billy Donovan win a national championship with the Gators, he guided VCU to three straight Colonial Athletic Association regular-season titles. His first season was highlighted by a victory over Duke in the NCAA tournament.

The Rams nearly pulled off a second-round encore before losing to Pittsburgh in overtime. Grant was targeted by Florida to return after that debut season when Donovan left for the NBA’s Orlando Magic, but Donovan changed his mind and came back.

Grant accepted the Alabama job a few hours after Donovan issued a statement saying he was staying put amid rumors that he would replace the ousted Billy Gillispie at Kentucky.

VCU was paying Grant a base salary of $400,000, with bonuses and incentives that boosted his pay to about $850,000.

The Rams’ season ended with a 65-64 loss to UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Alabama finished 18-14 and lost to Tennessee in the second round of the Southeastern conference tournament.