Former Michigan basketball star Gary Grant sees himself in current guard Manny Harris
For a second, Gary Grant joked he couldn’t remember notching the first triple-double in Michigan history.Â It’s been 22 years since it happened, so it’d be somewhat understandable if he forgot.
“I try to block it out because we lost to North Carolina,” Grant said by phone Tuesday night. “But I see Kenny Smith out here all the time and he always rubs it in, so I ain’t ever going to forget it for real.”
Courtesy of U-M athletics
In reality, it was a highlight in his storied career, the final one of his junior season - and a 109-97 loss in the NCAA tournament to top-seeded North Carolina.
Nicknamed “The General,” he scored 24 points, had 10 assists and 10 rebounds. On Saturday, he was joined in Michigan’s triple-double club by junior guard Manny Harris, who had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
On the bench during the NCAA game in North Carolina, the assistant coaches knew Grant was close. Meanwhile, Michigan trailed in the tournament game so it made sense to tell Grant to try to find open shooters for assists and crash the boards for rebounds.
“It was kind of exciting a little bit,” said Gary’s brother, Michael Grant, who was then a Michigan assistant coach and now the head coach at Division II Stillman in Alabama. “I remember him having a pretty good first half and we used to keep stats on the bench, too, and we knew he was real close to doing it and we were pushing him to do it.
“We were telling him to push it up the floor and see if he could get more assists and get
a couple more rebounds, grab those boards. He already had the points by then. We were really pushing him to really do all the extra things.”
Grant is one of the best players to come out of Michigan. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1987-88 and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in 1986-87 and 87-88. He is one of five Wolverines to be All-Big Ten for all four years of his career. A two-time captain, he was an All-American in 1988.
Michigan’s yearly assist award is named after Grant, the school’s all-time leader in assists with 731. He also scored 2,222 points in his career.
It’s not surprising Harris received the award last season. Grant sees a lot of himself in Harris, a player who is always around the ball and capable of doing anything his team needs on the court.
“He’s always around the ball,” Gary Grant said. “Offensively, you know he’ll always give you at least 10 points a game and then when you’re around the ball a lot you can get your rebounds and get your steals and get your assists and those kinds of things.
“The biggest thing in that is that I like he’s always around the ball. Every time I watch games, he’s always deflecting the ball somewhere or if he didn’t deflect it he’s right there in a jump ball situation. I’m not shocked that he got a triple-double and he could get a lot more because he’s the man on that team.”
Grant tries to catch Michigan as much as possible on television from his home in Calabasas, Calif. When the Wolverines aren’t on his television, he’ll hunt for a bar or restaurant with the game on.
He doesn’t get back to Ann Arbor much because of his playing and coaching schedule but said he’s planning on returning for a reunion for one of the Big Ten championship teams he played on.
When he’s not watching Michigan, he’s working with almost 200 players in Southern California, still teaching the game after a 13-year NBA career and a short stint coaching at San Diego State with Steve Fisher.
Currently he’s bouncing around the gyms of Southern California working players out, but he’s hoping that’ll change soon.
“I am getting ready to start something up in LA that I’m working on right now,” Grant said. “I’m trying to get my own courts out here, trying to build a three-court arena and have all my kids games and all of my adult games all in that one gym.
“It’s kind of hard to get gym time out here with all the guys who want to shoot and play basketball. So I’m trying to get my own thing going and it’d be pretty good from that point on.”