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Saturday, March 02, 2024 — Houston, TX

Grants build nest together at Rice coaching WBB

Nick Grant holds Austin, his son, as his wife, Danyelle, looks on. Danyelle and Nick are both assistant coaches on the Rice WBB team and share the unique opportunity of coaching at the same university. Kathleen Ortiz / Thresher

By Kathleen Ortiz     1/23/24 10:09pm

Soon after they started dating in 2016, Danyelle and Nick Grant talked about how they could never coach together. They didn’t think it was possible. They were both assistant women’s basketball coaches in different states. 

Eight years later, they live in the same city for the first time and are both coaching the Rice women’s basketball team.

“As you grow and as you learn and adapt about what you ultimately want in life, you make adjustments,” Danyelle said. “It’s been really, really humbling and fun and fulfilling, honestly, to be able to coach with [Nick].”

Both Danyelle and Nick had worked in women’s basketball for more than a decade before coming to Rice. Nick says that the hardest part of coaching on the same team was learning each other’s coaching styles. Nick is now in his third year as an assistant coach for the Owls, and Danyelle is in her second.

“When we come to work, we work,” Nick said. “If you didn’t see our last names on the placard, you wouldn’t know that we were married at all. Most people don’t [know] until they find out in a roundabout way, so it’s been a seamless transition.”

The couple first met over email discussing a scouting report. They later met in person while recruiting the same player at a high school basketball game. Neither of them ended up successfully recruiting the player, but they did end up reconnecting at the 2016 Final Four.

“We bumped back into each other again and we had sequential days to be able to get to know one another,” Danyelle said. “The rest is history.”

When they started dating, Danyelle was an assistant coach at the University of Utah and Nick was an assistant coach at San Diego State University. The couple met, dated, got engaged and got married all while working and living in different states.

“It takes a lot of work, a lot of commitment and we both were willing to do it,” Danyelle said of dating in a long distance relationship. “The other part of that is we worked for very good people who understood what each other meant to one another, so they were very understanding as well to help aid in our relationship. 

“That was a huge factor too, I think, for both of us, so now we have even more appreciation for being together.”

They got married during the summer of 2020 and had their son Austin Grant in the spring of 2021. When Austin was only two and a half months old, Nick got a call about a coaching job at Rice. He wasn’t looking to move farther away from his wife and son, but Nick couldn’t refuse the opportunity after talking to head coach Lindsay Edmonds.

“With each conversation with Coach Edmonds, I just knew ‘I’m going, I’m going to go there, I’m going to go work for her,’” Nick said. “We align in so many different ways. I think she’s an incredible human being and leader, and I was anxious to go work for somebody like that.”

Nick moved to Houston for the 2021-22 season, while Danyelle took a job as an assistant coach at the University of Southern California. Austin stayed with Danyelle. 

The Grants had already been in a long-distance relationship before Nick took the job at Rice. It wasn’t the same after Austin was born, though.

“It was very rough not being there for her to help with the child, but then also not being there for our first child as well,” Nick said. “It was a rough year.”

Nick credits the Rice community with making the year easier for the couple. Edmonds allowed him to travel as much as he needed to be with his family. However, the schedule made it impossible for him to be with his baby during Austin’s first birthday. 

“Just to speak to the culture and team here at Rice prior to us getting here, they made it so that Nick knew that they understood what it meant for him to be away on [Austin’s] birthday,” Danyelle said. “They helped celebrate Austin, and they had never met him. They got him balloons and books and gifts and things like that just trying to make that day special.”

After a long year apart, Nick was grateful when Edmonds wanted Danyelle on her staff. Danyelle said it wasn’t easy leaving the people she worked with at the USC, but she wanted to put her family together.

“I was willing to take whatever came with [us being together], you know, because there’s always give and take in this profession,” Danyelle said. “I love the kids that I got to work with and coach at USC, but ultimately they knew as well what was important to me.

“I’ve been coaching long enough to know and have made decisions based off of other people for a long time,” she continued. “Now I got to make a decision for me and my family. That was really, really fun.”

Now, for the second season, Nick and Danyelle live in the same city and coach for the same team. The players who once only knew Austin from photos now spend time with him reading books, watching movies and walking. They even let him sit on the back of the bus with them sometimes. 

“Those moments are moments that you live for,” Nick said. “You trust your players, and your son is able to look up to older people that aren’t his parents. That’s a really special privilege to have that not everybody has.”

Despite all the moments, big and small, that their family has been able to spend together in the past two years, Nick still says that his fondest memory is probably the first game he and Danyelle coached together.

“When we get done with a game our son runs onto the floor and he always runs right by me and he runs to my wife,” Nick said of Austin’s post-game habit. “The first game that we had, that was the first time that he did that. I just thought [about how] we hadn’t been able to be on a staff together ever. At our first game together, for our 1-year-old son at the time to run onto the floor and embrace us was definitely an emotion.”

Austin is only a couple months shy of his third birthday. He still runs to his parents after every home game. The team is 11-6 overall, and 5-1 in the AAC, and Austin will run to his parents with the exact same toothy grin no matter the team’s record or the final score.

“It brings me back to the reality that there are just some things that are bigger than the game,” Danyelle said. “It’s honestly the best feeling. He does not care whether we won or whether we lost. As a mom, as a parent, it’s really given me perspective to not allow him to know that and just to know that we love him.”

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