Grant breaking new ground at Alabama

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – When Anthony Grant was weighing the opportunity to become a groundbreaking coach at Alabama, he talked to another pioneer figure on campus.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – When Anthony Grant was weighing the opportunity to become a groundbreaking coach at Alabama, he talked to another pioneer figure on campus.

Wendell Hudson, the Crimson Tide’s first Black scholarship athlete and women’s basketball coach, gave him a big thumbs-up. After all, after last year’s election of President Barack Obama, then perhaps Alabama was ready for a Black coach to lead the men’s basketball team.

“We talked about his experiences here and the passion he has for this university, being the first African-American player to be recruited by the University of Alabama and his belief that this is the perfect time to come into this situation and make a difference,” Grant said of Hudson. “When you look at what our country has experienced within this past year, the change that’s taken place throughout our nation, it’s not lost on me and it’s extremely humbling.

“I look at it as I have a tremendous responsibility to honor the efforts, the sacrifices, the dedication of those that have come before me. And I’ll be eternally grateful for that.”

He’ll be the face of a program second only to football in prominence.

Athletic director Mal Moore cited Grant’s track record, character and reputation in explaining his hire. Diversity didn’t come up. While Grant addressed the race issue at his introductory news conference, he wasn’t asked about his breakthrough status by reporters.

That in itself is a sign of progress for the prominent Deep South university that was criticized in some circles for choosing Mike Shula over Sylvester Croom as football coach in 2002. They had similar credentials, but Shula is white and Croom Black.

The choice led civil rights leader Jesse Jackson to call for an investigation into the hiring practices at Alabama and the other Southeastern Conference schools, none of which had hired a Black head football coach before Mississippi State later turned to Croom.

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