I attended the press conference on Monday and listened to Jerry Stackhouse speak after being introduced to the Vandy nation by athletics’ director Malcolm Turner. Here’s my take on Stackhouse.
By Don Yates
Stackhouse as a player is someone who I had heard of in the past. I remember hearing his name when watching UNC games back in the 1990s. I guess I heard his name mentioned a few times on Sports Center when he was in the NBA but I don’t really follow the NBA. I’d never have guessed that he would become Vanderbilt head basketball coach.
While I’m concerned about the lack of college basketball coaching experience I’m excited about Jerry Stackhouse. When he entered the media room on Monday I watched as he looked over at a couple of Commodore basketball players sitting in the audience. He did a fist pump as he looked at them. He didn’t smile and it wasn’t an “I want to be your friend” kind of look. It was kind of look that one warrior gives another.
I liked Bryce Drew but one thing that concerned me about him was his very nice personality. Not that there is anything wrong with being nice but I know as a former sergeant in the Army that you have to earn respect from these 17-21 year olds males. They have to be a little scared of you. While Vandy’s players may have liked Bryce Drew I don’t think they fully respected him as the leader who was going to show the way to a championship.
A guy like Stackhouse has the ability strike fear in hearts. He looks intimidating. I imagine he’ll put some serious pressure on the Commodores in practice. This type of pressure will make performing in games much easier. Stackhouse hit 80 percent of his free throws in college. A big reason Vandy went O for the SEC this season was the inability to hit free throws. If Stackhouse can put pressure on the guys in practice at the line and other areas it’ll set them up for success in games.
A good coach knows the fine line of between being approachable if a player has a problem but also garnering fear in a player that he’d better get it right on the court and off the court. You look at coaches like Nick Saban, Bruce Pearl, and John Calipari. These guys can chew some butt with the best of them. We need a butt chewer at Vandy and I think we have one now.
After listening to Stackhouse, I believe on the court you are going to see a lot of man-to-man defense and a sprinkle of zone. Offensively, Vandy will work to get the ball inside. That bodes well for 6-foot-10 Ejike Obinna who sat out the 2018-19 season. Bryce Drew said in his final press conference following the SEC Tournament loss to Texas A&M that he regretted red shirting Obinna. I’m sure Stackhouse appreciates Drew redshirting Obinna as he’ll have him for three seasons.
Listening to Stackhouse, he doesn’t sound like a genius (and neither did Drew) but you don’t have to be a genius to coach winning basketball. If you can be a leader of men, put together a plan, implement that plan effectively, then you at least have a chance. However, Stackhouse appears to be very knowledgeable of his craft.
I think Stackhouse is the right age (44) that you want in a new head coach. He’s still got some fire in his belly. While he doesn’t max out in all the areas you’d want in a head coach with recruiting being an area of concern, I believe deficiencies will be mitigated by bringing in outstanding assistants.
Stackhouse shared about how he came up with his defensive schemes to enable his G-League team win a title. Being a former scorer, he thought of all the things he hated for opposing defenses to do in games and then implemented those practices and schemes in his defense. Sounds pretty smart to me.
Stackhouse’s first order of business is to do damage control. He’s got to sell the current players into giving him a chance to lead them. Transferring has been made easier by the NCAA. He also has to get Vanderbilt’s incoming freshmen class sold on him. But wait, he must put together a staff so the program can get busy with recruiting future Commodores. In the meantime, I don’t think he’s even allowed to recruit yet; he as well as his staff have to be certified to recruit by Vandy’s compliance folks.
There’s a lot of work to be done with Vanderbilt basketball program. Jerry Stackhouse looks like he’s just the man to get the job done.