NLL Retiree John Grant Jr. Takes His Creativity to the Coaching Ranks


On Saturday, John Grant Jr.’s No. 24 was retired by the Colorado Mammoth in Denver’s Pepsi Center.

John Grant Jr.’s No. 24 was retired by the Colorado Mammoth in Denver’s Pepsi Center on Saturday and, while much of the pregame ceremony was about his past, his involvement in lacrosse has much to do with his future.

He wants to be a better coach and he’s well on his way.

He has two coaching jobs – at the Denver-region Valor Christian High School and with the MLL’s Denver Outlaws – and he might have a third if an NLL team is smart enough to add him to its staff.

Grant, 43, has come a long way since growing up with a lacrosse stick in his hands in Peterborough, Ontario. He was in Florida coaching his Valor squad last week.

“In my wildest dreams, I’d never have imagined being in Florida coaching and flying home to have my sweater retired,” he said during a telephone interview before a flight back to Colorado. “It’s been a crazy ride, that’s for sure.”

The crazy ride includes a U-turn on Oct. 27, 2010, that changed his life.

Colorado acquired him in a trade that sent goalie Matt Vinc to Rochester. Grant returned for a 2010 comeback season, but there were lingering concerns about his longevity because he had missed the 2009 season rehabbing from a knee injury and a near-fatal experience. The knee got infected.

“There were even thoughts of chopping it off to save me,” Grant recalled.

He will always be grateful to Steve Govett, then the general manager of the Mammoth, for making the trade. Grant wound up playing for seven seasons with the Mammoth and retiring last year as the No. 2 scorer in indoor lacrosse history.

“I really owe Steve Govett a lot,” he said. “He took a chance on an injury-riddled guy who could hardly walk and said he wanted me to lead his franchise. That was life-changing.”

The Valor job led to full-time residency in Colorado. He acquired full American citizenship in 2013. The part-time Outlaws job as offensive coordinator followed.

“I love it in Colorado,” he said. “I love the people. My wife is in real estate and my daughter has an amazing group of friends. We’re moving into another house. Things are great. If [Govett] hadn’t taken a chance on me, ... I wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities. Who knows where life will take you? Sometimes you close your eyes and jump.”

There are nearly 1,200 students at Valor, which is just south of Denver. To Grant, it is a special place.

“We live five minutes from school, so it’s awesome for me and my family.”

His team has won two consecutive state championships and is hoping to make it to the final for the fourth year in a row.

Grant will then concentrate on his work coaching alongside Tony Seaman and BJ O’Hara with the Outlaws, who begin their MLL season in late April.

“I get to coach with two Hall of Fame coaches," he said. "Tony and BJ have been around and I’m always learning from them and I’m getting to coach some of the best lacrosse players in the world. It’s a test [for] my abilities to break down the game to its smallest parts and implement offensive schemes. I do that at the high school level, too, so I’ve been able to help high school kids get into the NCAA, and now with the Outlaws, I’m helping kids from the NCAA [get] into the pros.”

He also partners with Peterborough buddy Tracy Kelusky in Evolve Elite Lacrosse. Among the company’s many teams are 11 in the Denver region and Grant aims to branch out into more western U.S. states.

“Coaching is an opportunity for me to still be involved in the sport,” he explained. “I’ve always enjoyed the creativity of lacrosse. That’s how I played. Now, I look for new ways for our teams to play well. Coaching gives me an opportunity in some kind of odd way of having a chess board of players and being as strategic as I can, ... and off the field, mentoring players to help them become better young men.

“I’ve been around the game since I could walk and I try to use my experience to help players develop and grow at whatever age they are," Grant said. "Having been so immersed in the game, I feel I have a unique opportunity to give back. It’s been quite a journey so far. There are frustrating moments when you think you’re not getting through, that they’re not getting it ... and I really tested myself coaching my daughter’s basketball team of seven-year-olds. I thought I knew all about coaching but you try to coach kids that young in a sport you’re not that familiar with. It’s quite a test. That was an awesome experience, spending time with my daughter after being away so many weekends [playing lacrosse]."

Govett now is GM of the expansion San Diego Seals, who begin play in the NLL next season. Govett has yet to hire coaches. Grant said he hasn’t talked to Govett about a coaching job with the Seals.

“I’m busy enough in Colorado, maybe too busy at times,” said Grant. “I’ve dedicated myself to Valor and my full-time day job and to the Outlaws in the summer.”

He’s enjoyed the times he’s done color commentary on TV during Mammoth games.

“I think I can bring a unique perspective to the game because I’ve been in it for so long.”

Mammoth GM Dan Carey also is from Peterborough.

“We’ve known each other forever,” said Grant. “If they need anything from me and I can give time that doesn’t take away from my work at Valor, I’m there.”

He added he rarely leaves his home without a marker and paper so, if he has any thoughts about coaching, he can write them down.

“I’m just as obsessed with the sport now, or more so than I was as a player,” he said.

His favorite moments coaching are when “you break through and see that look on a kid’s face that says, ‘Yeah, I get it.’ It’s like this is what I’m meant to be doing.”

He’s even coached in Asia.

“Now that coaching seems to be what I’m becoming better at, I’m not going to limit myself to North America," Grant said. "Who knows? Down the road, this great game could keep growing and growing. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Grant had Hall-of-Fame impact as a player and he’d love to be just as successful as a coach. Nobody who knows him doubts he’ll do it.

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