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CU men’s basketball: Boyle-Grier connection dates back two decades

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  • Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle, above, filled the opening...

    Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle, above, filled the opening on his coaching staff left by the departure of Rodney Billups by hiring longtime friend Bill Grier.



As soon as former Colorado assistant Rodney Billups finalized the deal that made him the new head coach at the University of Denver, Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle had a plan.

That plan meant scripting a new chapter in a coaching relationship that dates back more than 20 years.

In 1994, Boyle finished a three-year run at Longmont High School to take his first collegiate job as an assistant at Oregon. At the time Bill Grier, an Oregon alum, was about to start his third season as an assistant at Gonzaga, where he eventually would help lead the Bulldogs to national prominence.

The regional proximity of the schools helped forge a friendship that continued to grow over the years along the recruiting trail and at countless coaching clinics. When the opportunity arrived to perhaps finally work together, both Boyle and Grier jumped at the chance.

“That’s kind of where it started, that Oregon-Gonzaga connection,” Boyle said. “I have great respect for not only what he did at Gonzaga, but what he did at San Diego as a head coach. He knows what he’s doing and we’re lucky to have him. He’s terrific.”

Grier, named as Billups’ replacement on April 1, spent 15 years as an assistant at Gonzaga and eight as the head coach at the University of San Diego before serving last season as an assistant at Oklahoma State. The dismissal of head coach Travis Ford made Grier’s stint with the Cowboys a short one, but Boyle made certain his old friend didn’t stay unemployed long.

“For me, it was a no-brainer for a partnership,” Grier said. “I felt like this year I had a better understanding of being an assistant and helping (Ford) because I understand the stuff better that you go through as a head coach. I think that’s something I bring to the table for Tad and his staff.

“I’ve taken a team to the NCAA Tournament and I’ve also gotten let go by a school. There’s a lot of ups and downs. You just try to stay level-headed and plug away at things.”

Grier is the first assistant on Boyle’s staff to boast head coaching experience at the Division I level since Tom Abatemarco left CU following the 2011-12 season. Heading toward his seventh season as the leader of the Buffs, Boyle already is lauding the fresh perspective Grier is adding to the mix.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” Boyle said. “And a guy like Billy Grier, the experience he has and the places he has it, it’s something that’s pretty special. When there’s a guy like that you can get, you better go get him.”

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