It has been roughly 36 hours since the Boston College Athletic Department dropped the news bomb that was the hiring of former Charleston coach, Earl Grant. Ever since the ACC media began to swirl and congratulations were extended by other BC coaches and alumni, I could not help but try to distract myself from the news. I found myself melancholy and plain apathetic about the hiring. It was almost as if my emotions were caught in a state of purgatory between pure elation and downtrodden sorrow brought on by the BC Athletic Department. For years, and I mean years, I was asking for the flashy six-speed bike for Christmas and BC bestowed upon me an L.L. Bean Argyle sweater. Granted, it is practical, but is it what I really wanted?
As I type this, I still do not know where my opinions sit. Sometimes the best way to reach a conclusion on a matter is to just to write a stream of consciousness like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake in the hopes that eventually you reach some sort of epiphany and it all makes sense. So let’s break down some of the pros and cons of this hire and circle back at the end of the article with some type of opinion, together.
BC’s Athletic Department, under newly instated Patrick Kraft, is clearly continuing on the same thematic elements as they look to rebuild. Hire youthful coaches with a hunger in their guts. I love this mentality. Nothing speaks more strongly than bringing in coaches that have served more often their careers as assistants and want to be given the opportunity to exhibit their talents on a higher level. Grant has shown the capabilities and drive to be considered a head coach in the ACC. All of his previous assistant jobs were with pretty well rounded schools: The Citadel, Winthrop, Wichita State, and Clemson. Now, those are not necessarily schools with eye-grabbing pedigrees. Nonetheless, they are all March Madness teams, or at least leaders in their respective conferences.
Continuing on this March Madness theme, when Grant was given the opportunity to be a head coach for the first time he grabbed the bull by the horns at Charleston and seized the moment. He turned the Cougars from a 9-24 team in his first season (2014-2015) into a team that had a winning record every year until this COVID-marred season. Not only that, the Cougars punched their ticket to the Big Dance in 2018 and had an NIT appearance in 2017. Overall, he finished his seven year tenure at Charleston with a 127-89 record (.588) which is certainly a step-up from the last guy we had at BC.
At forty-four years old, Grant has been named the CAA coach of the year and has given the Cougars a CAA Tournament title in 2018 to keep in the case till the end of times. It is clear that his time at Charleston was a successful one filled with tournament runs, championships and the complete alteration of the school’s program. But I can’t help ask why, other than contractual obligations, would a coach leave that situation? Furthermore, is BC the best place for him to land on his feet?
I do not think there was a single BC fan felt that this was not an out-of-the-blue hire. It was reminiscent of when the Knicks used their first round pick in the 2015 draft to get Porzingis. Now, I hope that BC’s hire ends up as good as the Knicks’ decision with Kristaps, but I have my reservations. The main issue is Grant’s pedigree. The cross-conference leap from a division like the CAA to the ACC is a vast one and we just went though seven years of seeing that be an abysmal failure with Christian. Now, I will give the benefit of the doubt to Grant in highlighting that he does have experience with the Clemson Tigers who made it to March Madness and the NIT when he was an assistant coach. So he has seen the courts of the ACC teams and has some familiarity with our opponents. But it is one thing seeing the waters, and another to actually captain your own ship through them. Let alone when that ship is badly in need of some repairs.
With that said, this leads to my next point. While Grant might seem practical on the surface in his strength at rebuilding a team like Charleston into a tournament caliber program, I just do not know if he is the right hire for BC’s given situation. The Eagles have been scraping the bottom of the ACC barrel for YEARS giving their fans nothing but disappointment after disappointment. We have been reliant on fifth-year transfers to come out of the shadows and lift us out of this abyss. Because of this, while I previously praised BC for hiring a young and hungry football coach, I still have some hesitancy if the Hafley-approach was appropriate for the basketball team .
In your everyday life, what do you do when you cannot seem to attain your goals by yourself? You hire a professional of the trade. Can’t fix those leaky pipes? You hire a plumbing company with 30 years experience. Can’t seem to produce a winning record in what feels like a millennium? You hire a veteran coach you KNOW can get the job done. That was the stark difference between BC’s football program and the Eagles’ basketball program.
Under Addazio, love him or hate him, BC was still a consistent 7-5 and bowl eligible team year in and year out. Granted, the Eagles were not getting into prestigious bowl games, but at least the team finished with a winning record. The men’s basketball team has gone too many years without eclipsing .500, even finishing their 2015-16 season 0-16 in ACC play. This explains why a gamble on Hafley seems more understandable than one on Grant. We need a Bob Knight (not advocating for him, obviously) caliber coach with years of experience and fire in his belly who you can have faith in. It is one of the reasons I was really pulling for a Jim Beilein-esque hire. Instead, it feels like BC is putting all of their money on red and watching the roulette carousel spin around and around with the outcome up to chance more than anything else.
After writing some of my underlying thoughts down, I think I can draw a rather appropriate conclusion on this hire. Grant has success on paper and has certainly assisted in programs maturing and reaching heights they have not previously attained. This makes me have some confidence that he could do something similar at Conte. He is also young, ambitious, and fighting for a chance to make a name for himself in the Power 5 conference as a head coach. I love the fight and passion that he can bring to the table.
With that said, I still have some trepidation in that this was not what a 15 seeded team needs right now. We have been a laughing stock in this conference for years and we could use a coach that carries a “militarized” type of approach. A coach who has been around the block, has faced and defeated the goliaths and knows what it takes to reach the highest peaks. A coach I can go into next season with an unwavering sense of trust in, confident that they will turn the program around.
For my closing remarks on this topic, I want to call into reference the Netflix documentary, Last Chance U, the basketball edition. I watched the first episode the other night after hearing about Grant’s hire. For those of you who have not seen it yet, John Mosley is the head coach for the East Los Angeles Community College Huskies. Mosley accepted a stipend position in his first year at ELAC with a hunger, passion and drive to help JUCO student-athletes put themselves on the recruiting map and to get a second shot at making it to the next level. He is intense, ferocious, and does not take any BS from anyone on the team. Most importantly he is a true mentor and father-like figure to many of his players. Mosley is a young coach, only three years older than Grant, but his coaching style is similar to some of the most prolific coaches in the NCAA. It is Mosley’s passion, drive and mentorship exhibited that I hope to see Grant bring to BC. Lord knows we need it, and I will certainly be rooting for his success come the start of the 2021 season.