- By Marcus Hartman Staff Writer
Anthony Grant looks like a strong hire for University of Dayton basketball.
The 50-year-old brings a little bit of everything to the table.
He’s a former Flyer, so he knows what a unique place in college basketball Dayton holds.
He has proven he can win at a mid-major school (VCU), and he has seen first-hand the differences that go into trying to build a powerhouse program in the SEC - both as an assistant at Florida and as a head coach at Alabama.
Two years working with NBA players surely broadened his perspective, and there’s no doubt being able to drop Russell Westbrook’s name on a recruiting visit could come in handy.
GALLERY: Anthony Grant as a Dayton Flyer
But, Grant’s resume is not perfect.
While he helped the Gators and Billy Donovan put together and train two national championship teams, Grant’s Crimson Tide made one NCAA tournament in six years.
He’s not the up-and-comer Archie Miller was, but hires such as the one Dayton made with Miller are fraught with risk. No one knows what an assistant is going to do in the big chair until they actually occupy it.
And while being a steppingstone job has its pros and cons, perhaps Grant views Dayton as more of a destination than most.
Only he knows that, and only time will tell how it all works out.
The real question on the minds of every Flyers fan is this: Can Grant continue Dayton’s upward trajectory?
Over the past 20 years, multiple schools with many similarities have not only become consistent competitors in smaller conferences, but legitimate national names, which begs another question: Why not Dayton?
Comparisons to Butler, Creighton, Gonzaga, and old nemesis Xavier, don’t show any reason the Flyers can’t join them as permanent fixtures in the upper firmament of college basketball.
WATCH new Dayton coach Anthony Grant interviewed by Don Donoher in 1986
Per data from the U.S. Dept. of Education from 2015 (the most recent year available), Dayton had a much larger enrollment than all four of those schools and enjoyed higher men’s basketball revenues than all four. Only the Bluejays drew more fans to home games than the Flyers.
Expenditures ranged from just over $4.8 million at Butler to $7.2 million at Gonzaga and Creighton.
UD reported men’s basketball expenses at just over $5 million while Xavier spent $5.7 million.
We know from statements made by UD Athletics Director Neil Sullivan the school was willing to make Miller one of the 10 highest paid coaches in the country (or close to it), so paying for a coach isn’t an issue.
That means it comes down to that one magic word in all of college athletics: recruiting.
Over the last four years, Dayton’s average national recruiting class ranking via 247sports is 84. That beats Creighton (91.8) but trails Gonzaga (74), Butler (65.3) and Xavier (54).
(It should be noted transfers and international recruits have been important for Mark Few’s Zags.)
Over the past four years, Dayton’s best class rated 60th in 2013. Meanwhile, Xavier has signed classes ranked 17th and 28th, Butler has two top 50 class and so does Gonzaga, including a 2016 group that was 15th.
Xavier’s incoming class is ranked ninth and has two four-star prospects, the same number as Butler (ranked 20th). Creighton is 22nd and has three four-stars.
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Dayton’s class is 110th and headlined by three-star point guard McKinley Wright (who some worry will try to follow Miller to Indiana).
The case could be made Dayton was actually falling behind those programs on the recruiting trail, so the challenge for Grant is clear.
What Dayton needs to take the next step is a coach who can develop and motivate players the way Miller did while recruiting more like Grant’s old boss.
Just about everything else he needs to win appears to be in place.