Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Two lifelong friends set for another coaching matchup

Frank Martin and Anthony Grant have a 42-year-long friendship
Dylan Nguyễn/Daily Collegian (2022)

In late August of 1980, a 14-year old Frank Martin walked in to Mr. Ross’ English class at Miami Senior High School. Martin was a sophomore, a “baby” as he likes to say, and he was reserved.

Martin remembers seeing classmate and now Dayton coach Anthony Grant, who he already knew before ever talking to him. Martin was intimidated by Grant, a 6-foot-4-inch sophomore that Martin said “was the guy at school that everyone knew was the next coming as a basketball player.”

“You never at any time [during Grant’s] playing career in high school would’ve known he was the best player in the school,” Martin said. “The way he went about his business, the way he treated people. He’s a class act.”

The two eventually bonded over basketball and played together for a few years in high school before both joined Marcos “Shakey” Rodriguez’s staff at their alma mater in 1988.

Grant became a “sounding board” for Martin over the years, and vice versa. Martin and Grant constantly called each other looking for advice on various aspects of life. Grant is even Brandon Martin’s godfather.

While Martin was head coach at Miami Senior, Grant was an assistant for Billy Donovan at the University of Florida. Udonis Haslem, Brent Wright and Sylbrin Robinson all played for Martin in high school and got recruited by Grant to Florida.

Martin remembers getting home around midnight from the bar, and laying down for sleep with class the next morning at seven. Martin’s phone would ring around 12:45 a.m., it was Grant making sure nobody tried to flip his three recruits’ commitments.

“That was almost on a nightly basis,” Martin said.

“We went from meeting, to friends, to basically brothers and family now.”

Almost 43 years later, they must face each other Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Mullins Center. This isn’t their first time either, as they battled four times from 2012-15 when Martin was South Carolina’s coach and Grant was Alabama’s. Martin is 4-2 against Grant all time, which includes two wins while at Kansas State. Martin and Grant’s strong bond off the court leads to both coaches resenting the games when they compete against one another.

“There’s 39 conferences, we end up in the same conference all the time,” Martin said. “It’s ridiculous, it makes no sense. It’s my least favorite game to coach [against Grant].”

The Flyers (18-9, 10-4 Atlantic 10) won five of their last six games, led by the best front court in the conference. DaRon Holmes II averages 17.6 points, eight rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The sophomore center is a shoe-in for First Team All A-10 and on a short list of frontrunners for the conference’s player of the year award. Toumani Camara averages 14.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

Dayton is currently the fourth tallest team in the country, with two players in its eight-man rotation (Malachi Smith and Kobe Elvis) under 6 feet 6 inches.

“When teams are long across the board, it makes shooting and passing really hard,” Martin said. “And if you can’t pass, it’s hard to shoot. That’s going to be the challenge. Keon [Thompson], T.J. [Weeks] and Rahsool [Diggins] are not bigger guards. We got a plan, we got an idea, but it’s the first time we’ve played a team that’s really this big out on the perimeter.”

“Survival mode” was brought to life by Wildens Leveque, who told Isaac Kante that the team has to change its mindset with its backs against the wall after the Loyola Chicago loss. The Massachusetts men’s basketball team followed that up with a 66-45 win on the road against Rhode Island Saturday.

For reference of how rare that is for the Minutemen (14-13, 5-10 A-10), the last time they held a team to 45 points or less was Feb. 21, 2007, when UMass defeated St. Bonaventure at the Mullins Center. The last time it held a team under 30 percent shooting from the field (Rams shot 24.6 percent Saturday) was Feb. 19, 2011, ironically against URI.

“I can see it in [the players] faces,” Martin said about a heightened sense of urgency. “If you don’t embrace responsibility, it’s really hard to grow. I think guys finally said “I’m going to do my part, and I need you to do your part.'”

The Minutemen’s win Saturday against the Rams was their first in the past six games. With three games left on the schedule, UMass sits in 13th place of 15 teams in the Atlantic 10.

Joey Aliberti can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.

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