By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
7:44 PM EDT, May 5, 2014
More than a month after announcing that the contract of longtime men’s basketball coach Fang Mitchell would not be renewed, Coppin State athletic director Derrick Ramsey said Monday he will introduce Stillman College coach Michael Grant as Mitchell’s successor at a campus news conference Tuesday.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
“I’m impressed with his work,” Ramsey said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. “There are two things I’m looking for: the graduation rate, that’s critical to me, and he’s graduated over 80 percent of his kids. He’s won. Everywhere he’s gone he’s built programs.”
Despite Ramsey’s initial assertion that he wanted to hire a coach with a connection to Baltimore, Grant has no ties to the city where he will be employed. But what separated Grant from the other four finalists was a successful track record as a head coach and familiarity with the type of situation he is inheriting.
Ramsey was the athletic director at Kentucky State when the now 50-year-old Grant was in the midst of a seven-year run as the head coach at conference rival Central State, where his teams went 126-94 and earned the school's first victory in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament. Though he didn’t know Grant personally, Ramsey recalled, “I knew he was beating the hell out of us.”
In his only other stint as a Division I head coach, Grant succeeded another legendary coach at a historically black university — Ben Jobe at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. Grant was 25-31 at the Southwestern Athletic Conference school from 2003 through 2005.
Asked if that also played into his decision, Ramsey said: “Absolutely. When you come in behind a legend as in a Ben Jobe or a Fang Mitchell, the ball looks different, the lights are a little bit brighter, the room is a little bit smaller and everyone is second-guessing you because the old coach would have done something different.”
Though he had started to turn around a program that had endured consecutive 20-loss seasons before he arrived, Grant was forced to resign after the team finished 14-15 in 2004-2005 when media reports surfaced of Grant campaigning for the job at Youngstown State.
That’s how Grant, the younger brother of former Michigan star Gary Grant, wound up at the tiny Tuscaloosa, Ala., school where he went 100-73 in six years, including 16-13 last season. Grant has also been serving as the interim athletic director since last summer.
Grant beat out Maryland assistant Bino Ranson and George Mason assistant Eric Skeeters, both Baltimore natives, as well as former Coppin State star Larry Stewart, now the associate head coach at Bowie State. Former Bethune-Cookman coach Clifford Reed, currently an assistant coach at Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member Savannah State, was also among those interviewed last week.
It was previously reported that Texas Tech assistant Vince Taylor turned down the Coppin State job.
As he did with Jobe, who won 11 SWAC titles and went to four NCAA tournaments in 12 seasons at Southern, Grant will be tasked with reviving a Coppin State program that had similar success under Mitchell. Despite being the school's winningest coach, Mitchell finished his 28-year reign with losing records in nine of the past 10 years.
During a 10-year stretch starting in 1989-90, Mitchell led the Eagles to at least a share of the MEAC title nine times and to the NCAA tournament three times. Coppin State last went to the NCAA tournament in 2007-08.
Ramsey said that while Grant doesn’t have any direct ties to Baltimore, his recruiting base will be local.
“I wanted [a coach with] ties to Baltimore, but more important, I wanted the best person for this job,” Ramsey said. “Now we’re going to have to work our butts off to recruit Baltimore. We’re not getting on a damn plane to recruit. We want Baltimore kids on our team. We are going to start here in Baltimore.”
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