Moments after Florida dispatched of Alabama in the SEC tournament, Gators coach Billy Donovan launched into a full-fledged defense of Anthony Grant’s job status at Alabama.
Grant is a former Donovan assistant, but the Gators coach claimed he wasn’t biased in his blunt assessment that Alabama letting go of Grant would be the “biggest mistake.”
“Let’s put it this way: Alabama better hope he comes back,” Donovan said.
Alabama disagreed and parted ways with Grant on Sunday. Grant arrived at Alabama with high expectations after his tenure at VCU that saw the Rams upset Duke in the NCAA Tournament in 2007, but those results at the mid-major level didn't carry over to the SEC.
Grant went 117-85 in six seasons at Alabama, reaching the NCAA Tournament once in 2012. The Crimson Tide brought in highly touted prospects during Grant’s tenure but struggled to translate recruiting successes into wins due to off-court issues, transfers or injuries.
Alabama has won one NCAA Tournament game since reaching the Elite Eight under Mark Gottfried in 2004. While Alabama basketball is hardly the draw of Alabama football, the Crimson Tide are in a position where they must play catch up with a rising Auburn program under Bruce Pearl.
Here’s a quick look at potential candidates for the vacancy in Tuscaloosa.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Updated, March 24, 2015
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported Alabama is prepared to offer more than $3 million a year to Marshall to be the head coach once his NCAA Tournament run is complete. Marshall would be a home-run hire, and one Alabama may need to keep up with heavy hitters like Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland entering the league in the last two seasons. Marshall has turned Wichita State into one of the nation's premier programs, leading the Shockers to 30 wins in each of the last three seasons, including a Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 season in 2013-14. Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons. He can be abrasive, but he's a proven winner who coaches with an edge. Just the sort of thing Alabama would need to catch up to the powers in the SEC.
Steve Prohm, Murray State
In four seasons at Murray State, Prohm has coached a team that went 31-2 in 2011-12 and another that won 25 in a row en route to a 27-5 record in 2014-15. He unearthed point guard Cam Payne out of Memphis two years ago and watched him develop into a pro prospect. He’s an Alabama graduate and former student manager. Hard to find a more logical fit.
Michael White, Louisiana Tech
White turned down Tennessee last season to return to Louisiana Tech, where he’s 81-23 the last four years. White has won three regular season conference titles with the Bulldogs but had never made the NCAA Tournament. With the core of his team leaving, now is the time for the 38-year-old White to make a move. He’s a former Ole Miss guard who spent seven years on the staff in Oxford.
Richard Pitino, Minnesota
The younger Pitino was an early name in the rumor mill despite only two seasons at Minnesota. The Gophers won 25 games and the NIT last season before slipping to 6-12 in the Big Ten. The 32-year-old is three years into his head coaching career, but he’s served as an assistant for Billy Donovan (as Anthony Grant did before going to VCU) and his father.
Rick Stansbury, Texas A&M assistant
Stansbury can win in the SEC. That much is certain. Stansbury reached the NCAA Tournament six times in an eight-year period at Mississippi State. (Slight problem: Stansbury, 55, coached 14 total years in Starkville). When Billy Kennedy added him to the staff at Texas A&M, the Aggies started assembling a top-10 recruiting class.
Philip Pearson, Georgia assistant
It’s not unheard of for an SEC school to hire an assistant coach. Pearson has Alabama ties. He graduated from Alabama in 1993, played under Wimp Sanderson and David Hobbs, and went to high school in Montgomery. The 44-year-old as a longtime assistant under former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried at Murray State and with the Crimson Tide.
Archie Miller, Dayton
The younger Miller may be the hottest name in the coaching carousel this season after taking the Flyers to the Elite Eight last year and an undermanned team to the Tournament this year. We include him here because he’ll certainly be on the wish list for Alabama fans, but unless the Tide show a major commitment to the basketball program, Miller could find a better situation at dozens of other major conference programs. Miller is also at a program where he doesn’t have to leap at the first power conference program that comes calling.