April 18, 2006
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -Anthony Grant assumed his first head coaching job Tuesday, taking over at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Grant spent 12 years as an assistant for Billy Donovan, including the last 10 at Florida, which won the national championship this season.
"I'm looking forward to doing really big things," he said.
The 40-year-old Grant replaces Jeff Capel, who resigned unexpectedly after four successful seasons as the Rams coach last Monday to take over the same position at Oklahoma.
"There were no other candidates for this job," said athletic director Richard Sander, who is retiring this summer, at the press conference. "Anthony Grant was our man from the get-go."
Donovan, who joined the press conference by telephone, called the hire "one of the greatest coaching coups that (VCU) could ever have possibly dreamed of."
Grant said he's had opportunities to leave for head coaching jobs before, but was waiting for a situation that almost compelled him to leave Florida.
"For me to leave that place, it had to be something special," he said, adding that along with the successful foundation put in place by Capel, the school has "everything as a coach that you would look for in terms of being able to win championships."
Capel, who became the youngest head coach in Division I when he was hired at 27, compiled a 79-41 record with the Rams, won the Colonial Athletic Association championship in 2004 and made NCAA and NIT postseason appearances.
The Rams will play up-tempo basketball similar to the style Florida uses, putting pressure on its opponents at the offensive and defensive ends, Grant said. That style helped transform the Gators from a losing program to national champions.
"It will be very exciting for you guys, the fans, to watch," Grant said. "It will be a very exciting style of play for the players to play."
Several players attended the news conference, and guard Jamal Shuler said he came away from a morning team meeting with Grant eager to learn the system.
"I'm a scorer. A lot of guys on this team can score. We're very athletic and we're going to play up and down," Shuler said. "That's kind of what coach Capel did and with this style, he won a championship so you can't do anything but listen."
Grant said his recruiting philosophy will be to pursue talent in Virginia, similar to Florida's efforts to kept its best players home in building the program.
George Mason's celebrated run to the Final Four, losing to Florida in the semifinals, raised the profile of the CAA as one of the nation's best mid-major conferences, Grant said.
"I think VCU has a chance to be the top program in this league," he said.