Anthony Solomon sat on the bench as an assistant coach for the Dayton Flyers for 34 games 10 years ago. One game and one moment stands out above the others.
Solomon, who joined new UD coach Anthony Grant’s staff as the associate head coach in April, told the story on Wednesday in a phone interview from the Cronin Center. He’s been so busy in his first couple weeks on the job, this was the first time he had used his office phone. He took the opportunity to look back on his first stint with Dayton.
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“At that time, our son AJ was 5½ years old,” Solomon said. “We played Pittsburgh here, and Brian Roberts was the leading scorer with (31) points. He was really hot. We were very successful that night. All the white towels were flying around, and the red shirts were on. As I was leaving the court, I was able to catch the eye of my son. My wife was holding him. He looked at me. I couldn’t hear him, but I could read his lips. He was so excited. He was saying, ‘Daddy, we won.’ He hadn’t seen as many wins the previous years. He was beginning to get older. It stuck out to him so much that we won a game.”
Dayton beat No. 6 Pittsburgh 80-55 on Dec. 29, 2007. Solomon won a total of 24 games in the previous four seasons as the head coach at St. Bonaventure. He helped the program move past a recruiting scandal that took place before he arrived but wasn’t allowed to stick around long enough to build a winner.
Getting an assistant coaching job at Dayton allowed Solomon, 52, to stay in the game and continue an uninterrupted career that has now lasted 28 seasons.
Solomon’s son (Anthony Solomon Jr.) is now 14. He’ll be a freshman in high school in the fall. Solomon is busy helping his wife Tracey and son move to Dayton. They have two daughters in college. Maya plays basketball at Maryville University in St. Louis. Kamra plays soccer at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
“Once I get them settled, it makes me doing the best job I can very easy,” Solomon said. “They’ve been a part of my success in this profession.”
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Solomon crossed paths with Grant numerous times on the recruiting trail before they joined forces at Dayton, mostly during the years when Solomon was an assistant at Notre Dame (2000-03 and 2008-16) and Grant was an assistant at Florida (1996-2006).
One year, Solomon and Grant were each chasing the same prospects in Florida. They stayed at the same hotel and kept running into each other in the workout room. Solomon said it happened for 10 straight days. It became such a regular occurrence when they would see each other at a gym at the end of the night, they would say, “See you tomorrow morning.”
Neither could have imagined then or even two months ago they would reunite in Dayton. Archie Miller’s decision to take the job at Indiana on March 25 opened the door for Grant to return to his alma mater. Meanwhile, Solomon was looking for a new job after one season at Georgetown because the Hoyas fired John Thompson III on March 23.
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Solomon has experienced about everything in almost three decades in coaching. This was the third time he lost a job. That prior experience didn’t make it any easier.
“It’s a very humbling time,” Solomon said. “As a leader in my home, I try to remain strong and faithful in knowing the next opportunity is going to come about. People say it’s part of the profession. I’ve lived it. I’ve got a great wife who’s very supportive in that. Certainly it can be stressful, but in those situations — and I can only speak for myself — I try to use it as a time to really reflect on where I am in my career and my life. I feel very blessed my recovery was to return to the University of Dayton because I want to experience continued success.”
Solomon said he’s as excited to coach now as he was 25 years ago. He still has many goals. He advanced to the Final Four with the University of Virginia as a college freshman in 1984, the same season Anthony Grant and Dayton played in the Elite Eight. Since then, Solomon has coached in the Elite Eight three times — once as an assistant at Virginia in 1995 and twice with Notre Dame in 2015 and 2016 — but has never coached in the Final Four.
Asked if Dayton’s program has that kind of potential, Solomon said, “I’m a dreamer, but it starts in the summer when we get the guys in. There’s a lot of steps you have to take. A lot of things have to happen for you to take those types of steps. You have to make your breaks. You have to prepare. You have to consistently work on things and get a group of young people to strive toward one goal.”
That quest has begun. Solomon is glad to be a part of it.
“I’m ecstatic to be a Flyer again,” he said. “Certainly coming here with Anthony is really exciting. He’s a high-quality man as well as a fantastic coach. I think he’s a great leader for young people going forward as he gets settled here at the University of Dayton. To be a part of it really excites me and my family. Dayton has a history for decades of quality success on and off the basketball court with a fantastic fan base that is known throughout the country for its success and support of our basketball program.”