Andrew Grantz is glad to be back home again in Indiana.
The Providence High School graduate was officially hired as the new boys’ basketball coach at Jeffersonville on May 12.
The 31-year-old began his coaching career at his alma mater, guiding the Pioneers to a 50-23 record, one sectional and one regional title over three seasons (2014-17). He then spent two years as the bench boss at Fort Myers High School, where he went 37-17 and led the Green Wave to a district title and a trip to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Sweet 16. He spent this past season as an assistant coach at Missouri Baptist University, an NAIA school near St. Louis.
Earlier this week he and his wife, Jenna (a Floyd Central grad), closed on their new home, which will also house their 1-year-old daughter, Charlee, and two Goldendoodles.
News and Tribune sports editor Josh Cook caught up with Grantz on Monday, the beginning of the second week of voluntary summer workouts. Here are a few of the highlights from that interview.
Q: WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE BACK IN SOUTHERN INDIANA?
A: It’s been really nice being back. The family side of it’s been great, but obviously the basketball side it’s been kind of crazy. I was able to talk with a lot of the kids on the phone and try to help them get set up with some trainers in the area to do some workouts and things like that and try to send them some stuff online to do at home. Our wrestling coach, Coach (Danny) Struck, has been doing a lot of online workouts and everything, so our guys have been involved with that, really just trying to give them as many opportunities as we can.
Then, I’ve been doing some stuff. ... It’s been tough because you haven’t been able to meet with the players, but it’s been nice for me because I’ve got some ideas of things I want to implement and I’ve been able to really spend a lot of time on that. We’re going to start a new youth organization, we’re going to call it the Red Devil Basketball Association and right now we’re just kind of finalizing some of the details on it and we’re getting ready to announce that. I’m really, really excited about that. Basically we’re going to give kids, from second grade to eighth grade, opportunities year-round to be a part of the Jeff high school basketball program. For us to work with them and teach them our system and for them just to feel — really from second grade — that they’re a part of this program and they’re a big part of it and they’re our future. But not just our future, we want them at games and bringing family and friends and creating that kind of thing. Reinvigorating our youth movement is what we want to do. So we’re really excited about rolling that out in the next few weeks, to a month, if everything cooperates.
Q: WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT JEFF BASKETBALL FROM WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
A: I’ve always had tremendous, tremendous respect for Jeff. That was always, obviously a big rival for us (at Providence). Those games, even at Holy Family, the games in middle school playing River Valley and Parkview, those were the games that you circled, those were the big games on the calendar because you knew just the talent that’s in Jeff. You know that you’ve got to play your absolute best to have that opportunity to beat Jeff. So that, and then also just talking with my family, with my dad’s generation and then my grandpa’s generation and them telling stories about Jeff basketball, their games and all that stuff. That amount of respect that you have for this program, just knowing the history and the tradition, but also the talent that has gone through these doors and the talent that continues to come through, it’s one of those, when the job opened up it was just one of those, it’s like, ‘Man, that’s a premier program in a premier state for high school basketball.’ It doesn’t get much better than that.
Q: HOW DID IT COME ABOUT THAT YOU GOT THIS JOB?
A: We were home visiting for spring break and that’s when everything got shut down (by COVID-19). Our college got shut down back in St. Louis and then my wife, she was a speech therapist in the public schools in St. Louis and they got shut down, so we were like, ‘Well, let’s just stay home, kind of just see what happens and we’ll just work from home.’ We couldn’t do anything other than work from our computers, so we did anyway. I had heard that the job came open. It was like 4 o’clock on a Friday that I heard it was open and I was making phone calls at 4:05 and I think I started my application at 4:10. It was quick. It was like, ‘That’s one I’m absolutely all about.’ I called my coach at Missouri Baptist and talked to him and explained to him just the history of Jeff and what this program means. He gave me his full support with it. He knew how much I love Indiana high school basketball and how much I wouldn’t shut up about it since moving away from here. And everybody says that in Florida too: ‘Here we go again, another Indiana high school story.’ So he knew that it would be special for me and be a great opportunity for my family. We really tried to do a lot of community things at Missouri Baptist too. We went to some schools and met with some kids and things like that. He knows this Southern Indiana community means a lot to me. To be able to coach here, but also have an impact in a positive way with some of the kids in the community, he knew that was important to me too. So he gave me his full blessing and support for that opportunity. I drive people nuts all the time talking about Indiana. I made my team in Florida watch ‘Hoosiers‘ my first year down there, they didn’t have the option, they had to.
Q: WHAT TYPE OF EXPECTATIONS WILL YOU ENTER THIS SEASON WITH?
A: I know that they lost a lot off of last year’s team, they had a very good team last year, a very talented team. I still think we have a lot of talent. The experience isn’t there yet, but I’m excited about what we have coming up. We’ll have a younger team, as far as experience and just production on the varsity level, than what we’ve had before. But what excites me is that I think the team that you see the first game of the year is going to be totally different than what you see the last game of the year, just because I think the room for growth is so huge just because of that experience. I still think there’s so much talent that the more comfortable they get in game situations, facing that adversity and kind of going through it together as a team, that by the time they get to the end of the year I think a lot of people will look at us and go, ‘Wow, those kids have really grown and matured.’ That’s kind of been my experience with some of my less-experienced teams, is that that room for growth is so big. It’s exciting.
Q: ONE OF THOSE RETURNING PLAYERS IS RISING JUNIOR WILL LOVINGS-WATTS, HOW IS HE LOOKING?
A: I’ve been impressed with Will. He has really improved his perimeter game and is playing with great confidence. He has been stepping up to lead in drills.
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE 2020-21 SEASON IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE?
A: (He laughs) I have no idea, you tell me? I don’t know. That’s a great question. I’m very hopeful that we have a season. It seems like it changes every single day. I would’ve said three weeks ago we’re having one, without a doubt, because everything’s heading in the right direction. Now all the numbers are back up … I don’t know. What we’re going to do, though, is we’re going to prepare like everything’s going to go the exact same. We’re going to come in with intensity every single day. We’re going to prepare that there’s going to be no changes and we’re going to be ready to go. Then if changes happen we’ll deal with it, but we’ll be prepared and then we can adjust. That’s kind of my mentality going into it, is that we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re ready to go as a team. To make sure that we’re doing everything for the players, to preparing them to be ready to go and helping them to get better and improve and holding them accountable to high standards on the basketball court. We’ll let the stuff that’s out of our control take care of itself and we’ll just control what we can.
Q: IF AND WHEN YOU DO TAKE THE COURT, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM ANDREW GRANTZ’S RED DEVILS?
A: Number one is we want to play with the pride of Jeff across our chest. We want our players, ... the expectations are going to be very high as far as just the daily effort that they give, the unselfishness that they give. It’ll be a process and we’re not going to be champions Day One, but it’s a process towards working to become champions. We want to have a champion mindset every single day. Then doing it every single day we hope at the end of the season it adds up and the results take care of themselves. But we’re going to hold our guys to a very, very high standard. That they work hard, that they’re unselfish, that they play together and they represent this school and this community with the pride that a lot of the previous players and coaches and people in this community have established and laid the groundwork for us going forward.
Q: THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TURNOVER IN THIS JOB THE LAST 20 YEARS, ARE YOU IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL?
A: That was one thing that’s been very, very important for me and my family. I was looking for longevity and looking for somewhere, and to be able to have it be a place like Jeff, where I can come in, this is a place where you can establish a winning program year after year after year. And through all the interview process, and everyone that I talked to, they were looking for the same things here. So I just felt like that really fit, both what I was looking for and what I think the school and the district was looking for. I think it’ll be a great partnership going forward to be able to, like I said earlier, establishing those youth connections is going to be huge. But that requires a coach that wants to be here long-term and that’s one of my number one priorities, is to build this for the long haul. And I know that was very important to our school as well. So I’m excited about that and I’m excited about some of the things that we can accomplish going forward with that mindset.