Interim coach John Brannen, senior Levi Randolph address coaching change, NIT berthBy Kelly Ward | 03/16/2015 1:51pm
Interim coach John Brannen has coached at Alabama for six years. Photo courtesy of UA Athletics.
It’s been an emotional 24 hours for the Alabama men’s basketball team. Sunday afternoon, Alabama Athletics announced that Anthony Grant would not return to coach the Crimson Tide. In the evening, the NIT announced Alabama as a No. 6 seed.
Monday morning, associate head coach John Brannen was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Brannen has coached at Alabama for six years. He has 16 years of coaching experience.
“Last night, we met as a team,” Brannen said. “It was determined prior to our invitation to the NIT that we wanted to play in it, that we wanted to move forward and get a chance to extend our season. It’s a reward to get a chance to play in the postseason.”
Grant’s firing was a surprise for the players. Senior guard and captain Levi Randolph said Grant was a big reason for him to play at Alabama.
“I think it’s unheard of to have lost your coach and still make the postseason so I know he would be happy for us,” Randolph said. “I know he wants us to keep going, keep playing like he always told us. You know, he taught us life. You’re never a victim. You always have to believe in yourself and believe in what you’ve started. It’s a process, and we just want to keep building on the things that he laid the foundation for.”
Randolph was named an honorable mention of the Associated Press’s All-SEC team. He is the program’s first Academic All-American. He was named to the second team on Feb. 26.
Brannen said it was important to get Grant’s blessing going forward into postseason play.
“In terms of Coach Grant, speaking with him and our staff, he wanted us to move forward with our team, and to prepare them to play whoever our opponent may be,” Brannen said. “I certainly, from my perspective, was going to get that blessing from him. My loyalty lies to Coach. I’ve known him since I was 18 years old and playing for him when he was an assistant. He means the world to me, and we are excited to get the opportunity to take what he’s built here at Alabama and try to extend it into the postseason.”
Alabama (18-14) hosts No. 3 seed Illinois (19-13) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.