Basketball coach Grier to return for next season

By Alex Manessis

Last Thursday with the NCAA tournament rapidly approaching, USD Athletic Director Ky Snyder announced that men’s head basketball coach Bill Grier would be back for a seventh season. The decision came five days after USD’s fourth consecutive losing season concluded with an exciting overtime loss to the St. Mary’s College Gaels in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. It was also somewhat surprising, as several news outlets speculated that this would be Grier’s final season as coach of the Toreros.

Grier was initially hired by the Toreros in 2006 after spending 16 seasons on the coaching staff of WCC powerhouse Gonzaga University. At Gonzaga, Grier was considered a key recruiter, who helped bring in and develop notable recruits such as Adam Morrison and Blake Stepp.

In his first season at USD, Grier coached the Toreros to the most successful season in school history. After defeating Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, Grier’s squad pulled off the greatest upset in school history, defeating the fourth seeded University of Connecticut Huskies in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. As the season concluded, Grier interviewed for the head coach position at Oregon State University and reportedly was offered the job before turning it down to return to USD.

Since that shining moment in the NCAA tournament, it has been downhill for the Torero program. The following season the Toreros fell to 16-16 and finished a disappointing 5th in the WCC. To make matters worse, sophomore forward Rob Jones, a key piece in the victory over the Huskies, transferred to WCC rival St. Mary’s.

The next two seasons were disastrous for the Torero program. The 2010-2011 campaign was rock bottom for the Toreros as the team went 6-24, with the upset of the No. 24 Gaels as the season’s only bright spot on the court.

If these seasons were frustrating on the court, they were far more so off of it. In 2010 former guard Trumaine Johnson, who had transferred to the University of Houston, filed a lawsuit against the university for racial discrimination. Grier was named in the suit for allegedly having unfairly suspended Johnson for violating team rules. To date nothing has come of the lawsuit, but at the time it received media attention.

In April 2011, the Torero’s all time leading scorer Brandon Johnson was indicted by federal prosecutors for a sports bribery conspiracy. According to prosecutors, Johnson was paid to intentionally manipulate the outcome of games. After graduating in 2010, Johnson tried to recruit another Torero player to take part in the scheme. Earlier this year, Johnson pled guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to six months in prison. Grier, who was not implicated in the scandal, was widely applauded for the professional manner in which he handled the entire ordeal.