On September 3, 2014, Earl Grant walked to a podium in the Cistern Yard for his first official press conference as head basketball coach at the College.
Throwing out any prepared speech and speaking from his heart to the nearly 200 people in the crowd, Grant said he was “humbled by this opportunity.” He spoke about his vision for the program, which included attracting well-rounded student-athletes and building an atmosphere that the city and the College would be proud of for many years to come. To the delight of everyone at the press conference, he also promised to lead the Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars finished the 2017–18 season with a record of 28-8, their best record since the 2010–11 season. For the first time in TD Arena history (opened in 2008), the team went undefeated at home with a 14-0 record and was one of only seven NCAA Division I schools to go unbeaten at home this past season. The year also marked only the eighth time in the school’s NCAA Division I history (1991 to present) that a Cougars team had recorded 25-or-more victories in a single season. The squad also won 14 of their last 16 games of the season, including an 11-game win streak – the sixth-longest win streak in the program’s Division I era.
The Cougars won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title for the first time since entering the league in 2013. They also rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to capture their first CAA Basketball Tournament Championship with an electrifying 83-76 overtime victory. Best of all, staying true to his prediction on that first day as the head coach, Grant broke a 19-year drought and took the Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999 under legendary head coach John Kresse.
Athletics Director Matt Roberts says it is impressive to think of the major changes that have happened to Cougars basketball in four short years. After winning only nine games his first season, Grant transformed the team into a nationally competitive program that was one play away from beating SEC regular-season co-champion Auburn University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Grant also changed the culture of the program for the better.
“He has attracted young men who want to be at the College of Charleston and get a degree from the school,” says Roberts. “These players embrace Coach’s philosophy and expectations of working hard, going to class and being good citizens of the community. And when it comes to lacing up the shoes and hitting the court, his teams will make the students, alumni and the community proud.”
Grant is a big reason why Joe Chealey ’18, who graduated in May with a degree in business administration, wants to be a coach once his professional career is over. “He’s the best thing to ever happen to this program,” he says. “It’s just unbelievable the impact he’s had on not only me, but all the guys who’ve been here and the College and the city. When you have a coach like that, you’ll run through a wall for him.”
That’s quite an impact.