When taking a great opportunity in sports, it can require a significant sacrifice for a coach, even if it comes with joy in the long run.
For Brad Grant, who spent the last five years as Pine Forest High’s boys basketball coach, his opportunity came late in June when he decided to transfer to Hoover High (Ala.) to become an assistant coach for the boys varsity basketball team and oversee the freshman team.
While Grant said that it was “too good of an opportunity for his family” for him to pass up, he knew it would trigger his emotions leaving behind what he called a “family atmosphere” at Pine Forest.
“This move will allow me to spend more time with my family,” said Grant, who also coached volleyball and track & field at Pine Forest. “But I enjoyed all five years at Pine Forest High School. My players were very good to me. Most of them that have graduated still keep in touch with me.”
On the court, Grant’s success was clear. He led the Eagles to three consecutive district championships and a trip to the state finals in 2013.
But off the court, this past year was extremely tough for Grant and the Pine Forest family, after basketball player Jacques “Jay” Hill was killed in a car crash. It followed in the shadow of former player Shaquille Purifoy being shot and killed in the summer of 2014.
“I’m still not over it and I probably never will be,” said Grant, referring to Hill and Purifoy. “It took a big toll on me. I still remember Jay and Shaquille as they were … always had a smile on their faces, but two of the most fierce competitors I’ve ever seen.”
The tragedies only bolstered the family bond around Grant and Pine Forest hoops.
“I can look up in the stands during any game and there will be some of my former players up there,” Grant said. “That’s what I love about this group at Pine Forest. That’s what made this such a hard decision to move on. But it was a great opportunity for me at Hoover, one that I just couldn’t pass up.”
Though the Eagles were eliminated in the District 1-6A semifinal this season, Grant will hold the members of the team just as close as any of his years at Pine Forest.
“Each year, I got 15 guys that I get to look at like they are my kids,” Grant said. “They treat my son and daughter like siblings. They call my dad ‘Pops’ and my mom ‘Ma.’ I will always cherish my time at Pine Forest. The guys that played for me will always be a part of my family.”