Anthony Grant Fired; Will Alabama Try to Hire Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl?


On Sunday, Alabama announced Anthony Grant has been fired as head coach of the men’s basketball program. 

In six seasons in Tuscaloosa, Anthony Grant had a record of 117-85 (.579). He led the Crimson Tide to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, and the NIT in 2011 and 2013. Alabama has accepted a bid to play in this year’s NIT as well and will host Illinois Tuesday. But it obviously wasn’t enough.

Mar 12, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant during the first half of the second round against the Florida Gators in the SEC Conference Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

“Earlier today, I informed Anthony Grant that he will not be retained as head men’s basketball coach at the University of Alabama,” athletic director Bill Battle said through a statement released by the university. “This decision was reached only after a great deal of deliberation, but I feel it is in the best interests of the basketball program to make a change in leadership. This has been a very difficult decision, as I have the highest respect for Anthony as a coach, as a molder of young men, and as a person.

Battle certainly didn’t say so, but odds are that the surprising four-day run Auburn had in the SEC Tournament might have had something to do with the decision to with the decision to seek a “change of leadership,” as they put it.

It seemed like Grant was safe before the tournament started. Sure, the folks in Tuscaloosa weren’t happy with an 18-13 regular season record and missing the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in Grant’s six seasons. But, they were competitive in almost every game and beat Auburn twice.

Then, Auburn won it’s first round game against Mississippi State Wednesday, and Alabama fell 69-61 to Florida the following day. Shortly thereafter, the Tigers upset Texas A&M 66-59 and they won again Thursday, 73-70 in overtime over LSU, to set up a semifinal matchup with Kentucky.

And then:

The 19-loss Auburn Tigers – who won just four games in SEC play in the regular season – beat three league foes in as many days and became a national story. There was no chance they’d beat Kentucky, but college basketball fans across the country saw Auburn highlights on ESPN’s College GameDay and heard Dick Vitale singing the praises of Bruce Pearl, K.T. Harrell and the SEC’s Cinderella story all day on Saturday.

Even after the Tigers lost 91-67 to Kentucky, Bruce Pearl stayed behind in Nashville to serve as an analyst for ESPN, adding fresh salt to the wounds of another disappointing Alabama basketball season. Once the tournament wrapped up on Sunday, Grant was out of a job.

Now, the question is: Will the Tide target Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl to replace him?

There were many Alabama fans that wanted Grant fired a year ago when the Tide were 13-19 – when Bruce Pearl was the hottest free agent in college coaching. Instead, the Crimson Tide stuck with Grant and fired him after he improved the team’s record by five games.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs made a quick decision to fire Tony Barbee (as in less than an hour after the Tigers went one-and-done in the SEC Tournament for the fourth straight year), and made a strong move to hire Pearl even though the coach was required to serve the remainder of a show cause penalty that lasted through summer.

Alabama is sure to go big with their coaching search and will likely reach out to some of the biggest names in the game – and that includes Bruce Pearl. However, even if Alabama makes a run to steal Pearl away, don’t expect the Auburn head coach to jump. He’ll stay loyal to Jacobs, who took a professional risk to hire Pearl even if the move was a no-brainer.

Plus, the hardest part of rebuilding the Auburn basketball program is over. Despite a disappointing overall record, there’s no question that Pearl has the Tigers headed in the right direction. Three wins in the SEC Tournament gives the Tigers a ton of momentum heading into the off-season, and the Tigers are set to welcome a recruiting class ranked 12th nationally by 247Sports.

The foundation has been laid and the future is bright.

“It’s Saturday in the SEC Tournament,” Pearl said. “I remember being at Tennessee and that was huge — get to Saturday, get to the final four, and we’ve done that. Our goal was to try to be relevant.”

It’s safe to say Auburn is officially relevant. Just ask Anthony Grant.

Next: Bruce Pearl's Foundation is Firmly Set

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