Another piece of the Troy basketball program’s coaching puzzle was put in place earlier this month when Marcus Grant was brought in as an assistant.
The relationship between Grant and head coach Phil Cunningham is over 20 years in the making and a major factor of his hiring here in Troy.
“I’ve known Coach Grant since 1991 when I was an graduate assistant at Mississippi State,” Cunningham said. “We hit it off great back then.”
The relationship means a lot to Grant also, who remembers working with Cunningham as a player many years ago.
“It was my freshman year at Mississippi State, and he was just beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant,” said Grant. “He’s a really good basketball coach, very creative, and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Eventually after finishing a productive career at Mississippi State he went on to play professionally, first as a member of the Atlanta Trojans in the United States Basketball League and later traveling overseas to play in France, Portugal and Germany.
Playing professionally is something that few people get to experience, but that doesn’t mean it was his only option in basketball after his graduation.
“When he finished playing, we would have loved to have him on the staff because he was a product of Mississippi State,” said Cunningham. “He played there, graduated there, so he was a natural fit for our staff.”
Eventually after returning from his playing days in Europe, Grant did join the Bulldogs as the coordinator of operations in 2004, and two years later he was promoted to assistant coach alongside Cunningham.
“I saw him grow as a coach,” said Cunningham. “He’s smart, so he picks things up very quickly, and he is tremendous on the floor. He knows how to coach and how to communicate with the players.”
While playing at Mississippi State, he was a three-time member of the SEC academic honor roll and, before signing with the Bulldogs, was considering going to Northwestern.
Grant explained that the family and community-oriented feel of campus life at Troy reminded him of his time as a Bulldog.
Now that he is a Trojan and once again coaching with Cunningham, it’s like a return to Starkville for Grant.
“It’s like we never left,” said Grant. “He and I see pretty much eye-to-eye on basketball and how to do things, so when he called about the job at Troy it was a no-brainer for me.”
That’s a feeling that both he and Cunningham share about Grant’s move to Trojan territory.
“When I got the job here, in my mind he was the guy,” said Cunningham. “It was immediate, he’s older and he has got wisdom but he still looks like he could go out and play tomorrow night.”