Earl Grant knows how to fight. In four seasons, he transformed the College of Charleston’s basketball program from a dismal Peach Belt bottom feeder to an NCAA Tournament team. Before that, he coached as an assistant with four teams in 10 years and has seen programs at their highs and lows. Boston College men’s basketball is at a low.
“I think we’ve got to be gritty and not pretty,” Grant said. “This is a gritty, chip on the shoulder type of place. This is a fighter’s job.”
In his introductory press conference on Tuesday, Grant—the recently hired head coach—spoke about his values, what brought him to BC, and his hopes for the future of the program.
“It’s not about me,” Grant said. “It’s going to be about these … players, it’s going to be about this athletic department, it’s going to be about this community.”
Grant is renowned for his skill as a recruiter and said he plans to focus on recruiting and evaluating players at BC.
“What it takes is great players,” Grant said. “The best teams that have donned these jerseys at Boston College, they did a great job of evaluating players. … This is an evaluator’s job. You’ve got to find diamonds in the rough. You’ve got to find guys with a chip on their shoulder.”
Grant followed the same formula while he was an assistant coach at Clemson, where he recruited future NBA players Jaron Blossomgame and 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year K.J. McDaniels. During his time at Charleston, Grant had players drafted in both the 2019 and 2020 NBA Drafts. Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller became the third and fourth all-time Charleston players to be drafted into the NBA.
Grant also discussed the importance of keeping New England prospects in New England.
“We’re in Boston,” Grant said. “We’ve got to do a great job of evaluating and building relationships here so people can trust us that if their player comes to this institution, we’re going to make him a better man and we’re going to help him chase his dreams.”
With an emphasis on recruiting and evaluating comes an emphasis on individual players and values, including current BC players, who Grant acknowledged have undergone a difficult season.
“I just want to give them [the current players] some encouragement that anything is possible here at BC, and they don’t need to kill their dreams, they need to keep their dreams alive,” Grant said. “I know it was a very challenging year this season, but I’m very anxious to meet them and spend time with them and help them grow as a player and as a person.”
Grant and Athletics Director Pat Kraft both stated that BC’s strong code of values played a significant role in the hiring process.
“We wanted a person that shared our values,” Kraft said. “I personally was looking for a partner.”
If there was one point Grant made most clear on Tuesday, it was his commitment to his values. He began his opening statement by thanking his wife Jackie and his three sons for their support, and extended gratitude to several BC administrators for their help. He then recalled his first conversation with University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.
“We had a chance to talk two and a half hours on Sunday,” Grant said of Leahy. “We talked the first hour about family and faith … so that was very critical for me.”
Kraft also identified several other key traits in the search for a head coach.
“I wanted energy,” Kraft said. “I wanted toughness—someone who isn’t scared to go toe to toe with the best in the country. … I wanted someone with integrity, passion, and [who] wasn’t going to take shortcuts. This is a process, and I’m so excited to know that we have found that in Coach Grant.”
Few people understand the ups and downs of college basketball better than Grant. He played on a Division II team in college and has filled many coaching roles with both struggling and thriving teams across the country.
“Last time I took over as head coach, the program hadn’t been [to the NCAA Tournament] in 20 years and … we were able to do it,” Grant said. “I can’t just imagine we’re gonna snap a finger and everything just will be okay. … We’ve got to fall in love with the process of becoming great.”
Grant rebuilt the Charleston program, so his decision to leave was not easy.
“Once I got the offer, it was bittersweet,” Grant said. “It’s hard to just turn your back on somebody and leave, but for my family, we felt like this was our next assignment.”
Prior to the opportunity opening up at BC, Grant said he was not vying to leave Charleston. He was, however, familiar with BC’s program and had attended several games at Conte Forum as a Clemson assistant coach. Ultimately, the decision came down to what was best for his wife and children.
“Two days before I talked to Pat [Kraft], my wife said, ‘You ought to take a look at the Boston College job. That job is open. You ought to take a look at that job,’” Grant said. “I’ve never applied for a job in 21 years … so some things are meant to be.”
Featured Image by Anthony Garro Courtesy of BC Athletics