ALBANY – What started with just the intent of giving an inspirational speech has turned into one of the most rewarding experienced of Tyrone’s Grants basketball career.
The former St. John University and Grady forward came to a Wings Academy boys’ basketball practice two years ago as a guest speaker. He left Albany last weekend as city and state Federation champion assistant coach after Wings beat two-time defending champion Christ the King in the final.
“I’ve won championship, but this is probably the most satisfying because of these kids,” Grant said.
The part of coaching he enjoys the most is mentoring the men on his team. It brought him such joy to see his players overcome the pressure to win the school’s first PSAL Class AA city championship and rally from 11 down in the fourth beat the Royals for the state crown. Wings season ended with a loss to Oak Hill (Va.) in the Dick’s Nationals tournament.
“To see kids who haven’t experienced a lot of positive things to by into what you say, the ending result is a championship,” Grant said. “You can’t take that away from any of us.”
The journey began when he joined the Wings staff as an assistant for his first stint on the sidelines. Wings coach Billy Turnage knows Grant through a mutual friend, former Cardozo guard Duane Woodward. It’s been a joyful and eye-opening journey for Grant.
“I wanted to experience it, just to see how it was,” the 38-year-old Grant said. “It’s very gratifying to deal with these athletes.”
Grant has been a champion throughout his career, just not at the high school level. He played in the Big East Championship game a senior and reached the Elite Eight. Grant also won multiple professional titles in Italy. The best he did during his time at Grady was two straight semifinal appearances.
“I won except for high school,” Grant said. “Now I added this to my resume. I’m sky high right now.”
Grant’s responsibilities at practice center around working with the team’s big men and that means Georgetown-bound center Jessie Govan. The 6-foot-10 center was complimentary of the work Grant has done with him. He has taught him about behind patient and adapting to the defense instead of forcing the issue.
“He played at the highest levels of basketball,” Govan said. “To have somebody to teach you the tricks to the game, keys to the game, ways to get easy scores, has been a great help,”
He isn’t with the Wings all the time because he flies back and forth from his home in Milan, Italy every few weeks. Grant founded a non-profit after-school athletic program called Team First. In between running his businesses Grant watches practices streaming on his iPad or has videos sent to him. That dedication, his insight and his position as a role model have been important to the Wings players’ success this season and hopefully later in their careers.
“I try to get guys who have done it at a high level who have been where these guys are aiming to be,” Turnage said.
Coaching helps Grant remember what life was like as a high school kid growing up in New York City. It reminds him of the struggles that occur both in a kid’s personal life and in developing his game that came before all the accolades and money from playing professional basketball.
“Your head is in the sky,” Grant said. “I could do whatever I wanted. I could buy whatever I wanted. You kind of forget. I got into the coaching and it brought me back to those Grady days.”
He now has plenty of bragging right in Brooklyn, the borough he considers the king of basketball. Grant said to the people around him that he would win a win a city title at Wings in two years. The Federation crown wasn’t even on his mind. Gaining that has only to his experience and sense of accomplishment.
“I didn’t say anything about that state,” Grant said. “I said the city. Now that we won the state, I’m talking [smack] 10 times more.”