When College of Charleston coach Earl Grant walks onto the floor at Charles Koch Arena on Monday night, he hopes he remembers to go to the visitor’s bench.
For three years Grant was an assistant coach at Wichita State and sat alongside Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall - a former College of Charleston assistant coach under John Kresse - on the home bench.
Grant said he’s not sure how he will feel sitting on the other side of the scorer’s table when College of Charleston faces No. 7 Wichita State on Monday night at Charles Koch Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. and is set to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
“I’ve never coached in that gym on the other bench,” Grant said. “I don’t know how I’ll feel about it. It’ll be different sitting on that other side.”
Marshall and Grant’s relationship has stretched over nearly two decades. Marshall can still remember the first time he saw Grant play basketball.
It was a typical, hot and humid July night in the Lowcountry when Marshall spotted Grant during a "Midnight Basketball" league game on a concrete slab in downtown Charleston.
Marshall, then a College of Charleston assistant coach, immediately noticed Grant's tenacious work ethic and defensive grit.
"A lot of guys only cared about scoring and playing on the offensive end of the floor in that league," Marshall said. "Earl was one of the few guys who played defense in those games, and he was probably the smartest guy on the court."
When Marshall left Charleston to become the head coach at Winthrop in 1998, he continued to recruit Grant.
In the end, Marshall didn't offer the former Stall High School star a scholarship, but in 2004, when an opening on his coaching staff became available, he didn't hesitate to offer Grant a job.
"I didn’t pull the trigger on a scholarship, and I probably should have because Earl could have helped us," Marshall said. "Even though he never played for me, I still kept tabs on him. He was coaching at The Citadel when we had an assistant leave, and I jumped at the chance to get him to come to Winthrop. It was a great hire because Earl coached just like he played."
The two coached side-by-side for three years at Winthrop and three more at Wichita State before Grant moved on to Clemson.
“He did a great job for us,” Marshall said. “He helped start to turn things around here at Wichita.”
Marshall knew it wouldn’t be long before Grant would became a head coach. He also is not surprised by the Cougars' steady success since Grant took over the program.
“They’ve won more games every year he’s been there, and that’s the mark of a good coach,” Marshall said. “I know coach Kresse talks very highly of him, and that’s really the only thing I need to know.”
Neither coach was very enthusiastic about playing this game.
“Gregg and I talked about two weeks ago, and we were both like, ‘why are we playing this game,’ ” Grant said. “We already signed the contract, so we’ve got to go play it. He’s one of my mentors. Certainly, you don’t want to play against people you really care about and love.
“We spent six years together, and neither of us are excited about the fact that someone has to lose the game.”
“The College of Charleston is a special place for me and my family, but I don’t really care to play against them,” Marshall said. “It’s not something that I’m looking forward to because I don’t like playing against people or a school I care about. There are a lot of friends in that program that I’m still close with.”
Both teams have been hit by injuries. Jarrell Brantley, the Cougars all-conference power forward, missed the season-opening 68-60 overtime win over Siena on Friday.
“It’s probably going to be a game-time decision if Jarrell plays or not,” Grant said.
Meanwhile, Shockers point guard Landry Shamet, an NBA draft prospect, is coming off a foot injury. He scored 17 points in Wichita State’s 109-57 win over University of Missouri-Kansas City. Forward Markis McDuffie, who led the Shockers in scoring and rebounding a year ago, is out until December.
“Landry still isn’t 100 percent,” Marshall said.