I remember exactly where I was the day they announced Brian Gregory was leaving for Georgia Tech. To be sitting at my desk in that dump of a Kiefaber shack could only mean one thing: final exam week. While sitting there, a friend who graduated a couple years earlier texted me asking if I heard any rumblings of BG taking a “big job” somewhere. “No clue,” I said. A few hours later it appeared across the screen of my Tangent computer: “BG To Take Head Coach Job At Georgia Tech.” Sweater Nation actually breathed a sigh of relief. For far too long we were settling for mediocrity and watching players with high ceilings barely get out of the basement. The search for a new coach to take us into the new era began instantly.
Back then I was certainly a Dayton hoops fan but wasn’t giving any attention to the coaching search. Twitter wasn’t in full swing yet; there were no “Woj Bombs” or “Jablo Tweets” to be looking for. This was a time when you truly needed “sources” to have any clue what the hell was going on inside Wabler’s mind, so I was content waiting for the news to drop whenever it decided to. Names started floating around campus and on a limited number of Twitter college accounts. We saw the usual “Five Coaches That Could Replace Brian Gregory” articles pop up on CBS and ESPN. Six days later the search came to a screeching halt: a guy Wabler interviewed at the Final Four was so impressive he brought him straight to Dayton for a press conference. Ryan Joseph “Archie” Miller was handed the keys to the kingdom.
We couldn’t hit Google fast enough.
“Archie? Someone that wasn’t on any of those lists?”
“Hang on…dude is the younger brother of Sean Miller – the old XAVIER coach?”
“Where do Wabler and Curran get their weed?”
The questions went on and on. I remember watching Wabs introduce Archie the next day. Wearing a tie that gave our boy Sully a stroke, we saw a confident young guy who clearly did his homework on Dayton – and as we would learn in the coming days, was tied to some big time basketball names. “Sure,” we said. “Let’s roll.”
Flash forward to wintertime of Archie’s third season. Needless to say, the first two years weren’t dream seasons. The collective patience of Sweater Nation was running thin and nightmares of the BG days started creeping in. Are we stuck in this limbo of “somewhat average” basketball forever? Then shortly thereafter, the balls of the entire team swelled to a capacity Dayton hadn’t seen in years. We were firing on all cylinders. The team chemistry was unlike any we’d seen since way before the BG era. Come Selection Sunday, we waited (with baited breath of course) and watched our name get called.
Very few people expected us to get out of that first round against Ohio State. I don’t need to retell the story of that two week run for y’all. I don’t remember many other instances where I’ve had more fun in my life than that tournament run. Sure, Dayton had always showed up to support our team and filled the Decibel Dungeon to the brim. But this time was different. No longer were we watching or going to the games for the ritual of it – we were witnessing it become the force we wanted for many years before Archie showed up. After four straight appearances, March Madness was no longer a “Please God just one time” thing: it became a January discussion of “what seed are we getting this year?” We never got too big for our britches, but Dayton basketball was at its peak.I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand more times: it was never a matter of “if,” but always when Archie would leave. He proved time and time again to be one of the best young minds in the game. Every time a job opened up we all held our breath while his name was floated every single time. But then we’d see him sign another extension into 2045. Until last weekend. Indiana is one of the greatest basketball programs and jobs there is. Archie played his hand to perfection and waited for the perfect time to jump. Godspeed and so long, Arch Man.
The point of this blog isn’t to go all “sentimental trip down memory lane” on your asses or tell a story you already know. Everything I’ve summed up, from the Elite 8 run to the class of seniors we just had, is the Dayton basketball we’ve always wanted. We saw a young guy at his first head coaching job knock it out of the park, sometimes doing so with very limited resources. When he left last weekend everyone’s immediate reaction was “shit, this carriage is going straight back to a pumpkin tomorrow.” The average Dayton fan was refreshing Twitter every 30 seconds this week. One or two potential candidates were floated, but Sullivan and Spina were keeping everything close to the chest.
My personal wish list? Crean, Steele, Murray, Pasternack, or Boals. I said it on the podcast this week that Grant wasn’t on my list because I viewed him too far removed from the era of Dayton basketball we find ourselves in today. With no real facts or reason, I feared him as someone who was too “Brian Gregory-era” and would be content with NIT appearances. I judged him by his ending at Alabama and thought someone who’s turning 51 in two weeks just won’t be that hungry. But after doing some actual reading and research into the full story of Anthony Grant, my opinion changed. And so that’s why I’m writing this – mainly as an excuse to do my own research and due diligence on the guy, but because a lot of you probably had opinions similar to mine.
With credit to Jablonski/Archdeacon and their squads, I wanted to give the cliff notes of all the research and writing they’ve done to bring everyone up to speed on our new Commander-in-Chief:
- Take a listen to Mike Hartsock speak with Grant on the phone earlier today. “I want to lead the program. I want what’s best for Dayton. I’m going to do everything in my power to continue the success that Dayton’s enjoyed.”
- Check out photos of a young Coach Grant during his playing days at Dayton, where he was a part of an Elite 8 team
- The last time I heard Anthony Grant’s name prior to this week was watching our Elite 8 game against Florida. He, his wife + 4 kids sat behind the Dayton bench and cheered us on. Read Archdeacon’s story on it.
- The University of South Carolina, while destroying everyone’s brackets this year, has a head coach with a very close tie to Grant. Read this story.
- Our boy Ostrom coached with Grant for years at Florida. He’s a big fan of him coming.
- Grant views Dayton as a “destination job“
- Grant was MVP and co-captain of the team his senior year at UD. Check out this interview of him back then with some highlights of him playing.
- Don’t want, I NEED this on the court next year
- GOTTA listen to his iHeart radio interview from today
- Stop reading about his Alabama days. He coached Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the last two years.
Congratulations to my guy AG! Type of guy players love to play for! Extremely knowledgeable of the game and knows what it takes to succeed! https://t.co/cYOay6C22s— Chris Wright (@flyght33wright) March 30, 2017
As a full-time salaried employee of a mid-major basketball blog, I’m paid to shoot from the hip, which is what I did all week on Grant. Here’s to hopefully looking back in a few years and being wrong. I don’t care about the VCU Grant or the Alabama Grant. I started with extreme doubts due to ignorant, uninformed opinions, but am now full steam ahead on the Grant Train. You know who can keep the momentum going post-Archie? A guy who played for Dayton and coached some of the best names in the game.
One of our own.
The man, the myth, the straws, the legend. More than a blogger; less than a God.