Michael Grant will not return as Coppin State's men's basketball coach after three losing seasons, the university announced Monday morning.
Coppin State University athletic director Derek Carter, in a news release saying that Grant's contract will not be renewed for the 2017-18 season, said a national search will begin immediately.
While expressing his disappointment at being unable to continue to coach the Coppin State men's basketball team, Grant said he understood the university's decision.
"Whenever you lose your job or you're not going to be renewed where you've spent the last three years there, you're invested," Grant said Monday morning. "It's not like I was here for a year and left. I've been here for three years and I moved my family here and became rooted in the community. So yes, I'm disappointed, but as I said before, it's all part of the business, and this is the business I signed up for, and if you're in this business long enough, you're going to get let go. That's just the way things go."
Hired in May 2014 as the program's sixth head coach to succeed Fang Mitchell after his contract was not renewed, Grant, 54, said he was informed on Friday that the school would not retain him. Grant, who earned $144,000 in 2015 according to the state's public salary database, said he was not terribly surprised by that development after the university hired Carter as athletic director last August.
"Anytime you have a new administration in place as far as a new AD, you just never know what's going to happen because a lot of times when they get that position, they want to bring their own person in," Grant said. "We just didn't get it done this year, but I really firmly believe that you need more than three years to build a Division I basketball program up."
In three years, Grant had compiled a 25-69 overall record and a 19-29 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The sixth-seeded Eagles were upset in the first round of this year's tournament by No. 11 seed Howard, 79-73, on March 6.
The end of the 2016-17 campaign wrapped up the careers of three senior starters in forward Terry Harris Jr. (9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game), guard/forward Joshua Treadwell (8.6 points, 3.8 rebounds), and guard Keith Shivers (8.1 points, 1.2 steals).
Next year's squad does return a pair of starters in freshman guard Dejuan Clayton (12.4 points), who was named to the All-MEAC Rookie Team, and junior guard Tre' Thomas (9.8 points). Also, junior forward/center Chas Brown (12.6 points, 7.1 rebounds in 18 starts) is expected to play.
Grant said the seeds for reviving the program have been planted.
"I think with the players we had coming back with Dejuan Clayton and Chas Brown possibly being the Player of the Year in the league, you have a great chance at being toward the top of the league," he said. "If you look at the games we lost in conference play, we lost six games within seven points. So we were two or three possessions away from double-digit wins. … The program was moving in the right direction, but the administration felt differently."
Grant, who had been wooed away from Stillman College where he had amassed a 100-73 record in six seasons, had been tabbed to rejuvenate a program that has advanced to the NCAA tournament only once in the past 20 years. His dismissal was first reported by HoopDirt.com.
Grant said he has no plans in place to coach again, but plans to go to the NCAA Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., from April 1-3 to see if there are openings.
"I just want to thank Coppin for giving me an opportunity," he said. "It's been a fun three years. Honestly, I think it takes a little bit more than three years to build a program, but that's their choice. They feel they want to move in another direction, and they have that opportunity to do that. I just want to thank them for the opportunity, and now I'm just looking forward to another opportunity to get my feet back on the ground and running."