Alabama head coach Anthony Grant speaks to players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament against Florida, Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphre
Mark Humphrey
March 15, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Alabama has fired men's basketball coach Anthony Grant, who led the Crimson Tide to just one NCAA Tournament berth in six seasons amid growing discontent among fans.

Athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement that he informed Grant of his decision on Sunday, three days after the Tide's loss to Florida in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

''This has been a very difficult decision, as I have the highest respect for Anthony as a coach, as a molder of young men, and as a person,'' Battle said. ''Anthony is a man of impeccable character who has been an excellent representative of our program. He has made tremendous contributions to our program and we always will be grateful for his efforts.

''In this business we are ultimately judged by wins and losses on the court and, for a variety of reasons, we haven't made satisfactory progress in that area.''

Alabama finished 18-14 and struggled to an 8-10 record in SEC games a year after Grant's first losing season as a head coach. Battle gave him a reprieve after a 13-19 record in 2013-14, saying he felt it wasn't a program adrift and predicting ''better things ahead.''

But once again, the Tide's best postseason hope was an NIT bid. Alabama will host a first-round game with Illinois Tuesday night, and it is unclear who will coach the team.

Grant was making $1.9 million annually through 2019 with a buyout of some $4 million, which would be reduced if he lands another job.

He led Alabama into the NCAA field in 2012, ending a six-year absence since the Tide's string of berths from 2002-06. Alabama ended the season without two injured starters, Shannon Hale and Ricky Tarrant

As the losses piled up the past two seasons, the Tide struggled to fill Coleman Coliseum, officially averaging 10,612 fans per game this season. That's nearly 5,000 below capacity and a number of crowds appeared much smaller.

''Today's decision is part of a larger evaluation of every facet of our basketball program that is intended to improve every aspect of our basketball program,'' Battle said.'' A key component in that effort is to get all of our fans pulling in the same direction, and to make Coleman Coliseum the best home court advantage in the SEC.''

Battle said he would not comment further on the decision to fire Grant or the search for a replacement.

Former Alabama guard Andrew Steele praised Grant's impact on his life.

''Hate to hear the news about Coach Grant,'' Steele posted on his Twitter page. ''He's the best coach I've ever played for and a big reason I'm the man I am today.''

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