San Diego coach Bill Grier is living every college basketball coach's nightmare.
On April 12, the FBI and federal authorities went public with their indictment of former San Diego star Brandon Johnson -- the school's all-time leader in points and assists -- in a point-shaving scandal. The indictment also named Thaddeus Brown, a San Diego assistant during the 2006-07 season and Brandon Dowdy, who played at San Diego in the 2006-07 season and at the University of California, Riverside, from 2008 to 2010.
Seven others were also named in the indictment, which alleges that Johnson took a bribe to influence a game in February 2010 and solicited someone else to change the outcome of San Diego games this January while a member of the D-League's Dakota Wizards.
Grier, who is not implicated in any way in the scandal, learned of this indictment in the scariest possible way: from federal investigators themselves, who paid Grier a 6:30 a.m. visit at his home. Grier was once tabbed as the de facto successor to Gonzaga's Mark Few; his contract with the Zags even stipulated as much. Now he's now responsible for picking up the pieces of a program that, at least for the foreseeable future, will be less famous for its hoops than its position as the nexus of a devastating gambling scandal.
To put it mildly: That does not sound like very much fun. So, how is Grier holding up?
On Thursday, the USD coach joined a San Diego sports talk radio station to discuss exactly that. Given the situation, Grier seems determined and focused enough, but he's clearly still reeling from the mess of all messes:
"Well, you know, when your world gets turned upside down, I’m doing my best to bounce back," Grier told XTRA Sports San Diego. "I started to get to a point, and it started mid-week last week of getting my head up and mainly get our guys re-focused on their school and workouts. And I think that’s helped me a lot. Our guys and kids in general, they’re a little more resilient and bounce back quicker from things. And I’ve kind of fed off them. We’ve talked about it a lot and we’re going to get through the best we can."
"How would you feel if the FBI came to your door at 6:30 in the morning," Grier said. "I was in shock ..."
The coach was also asked whether he'd spoken to Johnson, the accused former star, about the case since the charges were filed. That answer is no.
"Would I like to [speak with Johnson] down the road? Sure," Grier said. "I want to see how this investigation plays out, and if indeed this stuff is true, before I jump to a conclusion on anything with him. But if it is indeed true, I’m devastated by it and I’d feel betrayed. Myself and a lot of people at that university did a lot to help him through his career, through his academic career, all of that. It would just be so sad if these allegations are indeed proven true. It just makes me sick.”
What makes all of this even worse, as our own Andy Katz described earlier this month, is that Grier's teams have taken a massive nosedive on the court in recent seasons, too. The Toreros were 16-16 in 2009, 11-21 in 2010, and 6-24 in 2011, when they were one of the worst teams in college hoops whose only highlight came in a late-February upset over St. Mary's.
It's hard enough to turn that kind of slide around. It's even harder -- which, again, is a massive understatement -- when you're attempting that rebuild in the midst of a massive scandal that raises serious questions about the relationship of betting to college sports. Then again, when your school is the one people can point to to question the integrity of collegiate athletics itself -- one out of every four college basketball players polled by ESPN the Magazine in November said they'd consider shaving points in the event of a 40-point blowout -- maybe winning doesn't seem like such a big deal after all.