Who is Earl Grant? A look at Boston College’s newest head coach

Boston College has hired Charleston head coach Earl Grant as its new men’s basketball head coach. He just ended his 7th year as Charleston’s head coach, and formerly was an assistant at Clemson, Wichita State, Winthrop, and The Citadel.

Earl Grant has been the head coach of the College of Charleston Cougars since 2014, posting a 127-88 (.591) overall record and a 69-50 (.580) conference record in the Colonial Athletic Association. He’s brought the Cougars to an NCAA appearance in 2018, as well as an NIT appearance in 2017. He has won his conference once and has finished in the conference’s top-4 for 5 straight years now.

Assistant coaching at mid-majors:

As an assistant at Winthrop from 2004 to 2007, Grant was part of a staff that brought the Eagles to 3-straight NCAA tournament appearances, which included upsetting 6-seed Notre Dame in 2007’s first round.

After that he worked at Wichita State from 2007 to 2010, where the team gradually improved from a .355 winning percentage in his first year to a .714 winning percentage in his final year. The Shockers did not make any postseason tournaments during that time.

At neither school was Grant part of a staff that recruited an eventual NBA player.

Assistant coaching in the ACC:

Grant became an assistant at Clemson in 2010, a fellow ACC school. In his first year there the Tigers made the NCAA tournament for the 4th season in a row, making it to the second round as a 12 seed. In the 3 following seasons while Grant was there, the Tigers failed to make any kind of postseason tournament. Clemson steadily declined Grant’s first 3 years at the program, then jumped back up to a respectable .639 in his final season.

While at Clemson, he was part of the staff that recruited 2 eventual NBA Draft selections, KJ McDaniels and Jaron Blossomgame. They went 32nd and 59th overall, respectively. Neither is on an NBA roster today.

A rough start as head coach:

In the 2013-14 season before Earl Grant’s tenure, the Charleston Cougars had gone a lousy 14-18. But in the few seasons before that they were regularly winning at least 60% of their games if not more. Charleston was nowhere near the “cellar” that Boston College finds itself in today. In that 2014 offseason, they fired coach Doug Wojcik with cause for being verbally abusive towards players.

Grant was hired and, in those first couple immediate seasons, Charleston’s record suffered. The Cougars went a very poor 9-24 in Grant’s first season, and improved to a mediocre 17-14 in his second year. It’s unclear whether Wojcik’s behavior and firing had such a negative impact on the team that it caused this downturn, but Grant was not able to effectively deal with it either way.

Improvement as he built the program in his own vision:

Year 3 is when things really started to pick up for Earl Grant’s Charleston. The Cougars jumped out to a stellar 25-10 record (14-4 in conference, 2nd place) and made an appearance in the NIT. The following year they did even better, improving to 26-8, winning the conference, and making their first March Madness appearance in 19 years. They would lose in the first round as a 13-seed. The success mostly continued the following year as Charleston finished 24-9 and 3rd in the conference, though failing to make any postseason bid.

Coming back down to Earth:

The past two seasons haven’t been nearly as successful for Grant. In 2019-20 his team fell back down 17-14 (11-7 in conference play) and tied for 4th-place in the conference standings. This past year was even worse, going just 9-9 (7-4 in conference). It’s typical that basketball programs go through waves of success and decline because players are cycling through the program and some rosters are just bound to be better than others. But it’s questionable that Boston College would choose to hire a coach in the middle of one of these downturns.

Under Grant in this time period, however, Charleston did produce 2 NBA draft picks: Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller. They went 50th and 56th overall respectively, and were the first Charleston players to get drafted into the NBA in over 20 years.

Biographical information:

  • He’s 44-years-old, married to Jacci Grant. They have three sons, Trey, Eyzaiah, and Elonzo.
  • He’s a native of North Charleston, SC.
  • He played DII basketball at Georgia College and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Some takeaways:

  • He has very little experience outside of the Southeast. That’s certainly well within the ACC’s recruiting footprint, but it doesn’t exactly match well with Boston College.
  • He has some experience with ACC-level recruiting, but not a whole lot. Is just 4 years at a middling Clemson program enough experience to take over one on his own?
  • His track record for winning is shaky. He certainly improved his team over the course of a few years, and making the NCAA tournament for the first time in almost 20 years is no easy feat. But those successful 3 years are sandwiched by a lot of mediocrity, and the competition in the ACC is wildly more difficult than in the CAA.
  • Why didn’t BC wait until after March Madness to make a hire? There are multiple coaches in the tournament this year that could’ve been great candidates for BC. Pat Kraft & co. decided to not even interview them, as far as we’re aware.

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