Without any big surprises in the CAA Standings this year the Coach of the Year is as up in the air as it has ever been. Any of the coaches that led teams to finish in the top four of the league could be reasonably argued. Defending COY Kevin Keatts is an especially worthy choice, but late season losses to Elon, William and Mary and Charleston knocked an at large contender out of position, and Keatts down a notch in our leaderboard. Instead we opted for a different young coach of a southern team that is in his first head coaching job: Earl Grant is the Always A Dragon CAA Coach of the Year.
Coach Grant inherited a mess at College of Charleston, walking in the door as Doug Wojcik was escorted out. The team had only been in the CAA for a year, it was now under fire and had just graduated three starters. To the credit of a college that is known to expect excellence from their athletic program, there was no panic at the beach. Grant didn’t go out and find transfers to patch holes and attempt a quick turnaround. Instead, in year one Coach Grant played two seniors and no other upperclassmen. His underclassman didn’t learn overnight – the team went 3-15 and finished in last place in the Colonial.
Flash forward just two seasons to this year. Joe Chealey has developed into a Player of the Year contender at the point guard position, a huge leap from when he was seen last two seasons ago. Sophomore Jarrell Brantley is widely considered the best sophomore in the league, and freshman Grant Riller is a candidate for top freshman honors this year. The roster goes nine deep most games without a single senior contributing major minutes. This program collapsed just two years ago, and this year it went 23-8 (14-4 in CAA play) and finished well within the top 100 both in the RPI and Kenpom rankings. The Cougars also had the conference’s second best win of the season when they became the only team to beat UNCW at Trask Colliseum (Northeastern’s win at Michigan State takes the cake).
And every major contributor comes back next year.
The College of Charleston is back, and it isn’t temporary. Earl Grant has built a program from the ground up in just three years. With the CAA Tournament in Charleston for the next few years, The College has positioned themselves like no school this conference has seen since VCU, a lofty position that is earned. With a team that takes care of the ball, gets penetration and plays defense each and every game this team is more than just a contender as soon as this season, they’re almost a favorite.
Earl Grant was never looking for a quick fix, he did this build the right way and he has built something lasting, achieving a first payout this season. And for that reason, we’re excited to name him Coach of the Year.