San Diego Fires Head Coach Bill Grier


Some breaking news on Monday as the San Diego Toreros have confirmed they have fired Head Coach Bill Grier. This comes after a morning and early afternoon of multiple reports on Twitter that this move was being made. After being on the hot seat for a number of years, it appears time has run out for the former Gonzaga assistant who was brought in to take the Toreros to the next level.

Grier came to the Toreros in 2007 after spending 16 years on the Gonzaga staff. He spent the final 8 as Mark Few’s top assistant. Known for his coaching skill, he was considered the primary X’s and O’s assistant for the Bulldogs, and he was there for their entire rise to prominence as one of the first great mid-major teams.

The Toreros found immediate success under Grier, but it was short lived. Leading a roster full of former coach Brad Holland’s recruits, the Toreros won the WCC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. They upset UCONN in the first round to claim the program’s only NCAA Tournament win. Grier was wooed by larger programs after the immediate success, but the Toreros were able to keep him.

Jan 11, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros head coach Bill Grier looks on during the second half against the Pepperdine Waves at Jenny Craig Pavillion. Pepperdine won 69-65. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With that entire roster returning the next season, the future looked bright. But things quickly unraveled. Key guard Trumaine Johnson was suspended much of the season, and he left the program citing issues with Grier. A season-ending injury to star Brandon Johnson was also a major blow for a team that limped to a .500 record.

The Toreros continued to decline from there. They lost another key player when Rob Jones left the program and ended up at WCC rival Saint Mary’s. Brandon Johnson returned and became the program’s all-time leading scorer, but the team struggled to a poor 11-21 season.

Even the bright spot of Johnson was ruined as he and others close to the program were eventually charged in a major point shaving scandal. Grier and the Toreros were found to be innoncent in the case, but it left a black mark on the program.

The 2010-11 season was a rough one as the Toreros stumbled to a 6-24 record. They remained under .500 every season from there until last year as things have started to turn the corner in recent years to some extent. Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson became a lethal backcourt duo and will go down as some of the finest recruits USD has ever had. Dee became the all-time leading scorer in his final season, erasing Johnson from the top of the record books.

The Toreros are getting more competitive having reached the postseason in 2013-14 for the first time since the NCAA Tournament berth in Grier’s first season. They made a CIT Tournament run to the quarterfinals that was the deepest postseason run in program history.

However, they regressed a bit this season as they fell out of the WCC race and missed the postseason while finishing under .500 again. It appears that was the final blow for Grier who had been under fire for a number of seasons due to the lack of improvement and his inability to build off the success of the 2007-08 season.

The incoming coach will have a tough task trying to rebuild. Dee and Anderson are graduating, and no other players on the roster have shown the same ability and star power. There are some good young pieces as Grier and his staff were showing an ability to bring in good international recruits, but it remains to be seen if they are any team leaders in that group.

More from San Diego

Athletic Director Ky Snyder is quoted in the official release as saying they “will begin conducting a national search immediately.” This will be an important hire for Snyder as hiring Grier was one of his major moves to date as the head of the department. He has shown great success with hiring in other sports, in particular football where both Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Ron Caragher of San Jose State have both spent time coaching the Toreros after being hired by Snyder.

Some popular names that will be tossed around include former NBA coaches Eric Musselman and Mike Brown. Both played their college ball for the Toreros, and it would follow the path of Loyola Marymount who fired Max Goode last year and replaced him with former NBA coach Mike Dunlap.

More likely, the same format that led to the hiring of Grier will be used. Grier was brought in to emulate the success of Gonzaga. The hope was he could use the San Diego environment and quality facilities combined with his big-game experience to turn San Diego into the next great mid-major program. It never came to fruition, but more than likely the next head coach will have a similar pedigree in hopes that he can do what Grier could not.

Stay tuned to West Coast Convo for the latest news on San Diego’s coaching search.