Former North Carolina Tar Heels and NBA star Jerry Stackhouse is turning around the middling basketball program at Vanderbilt. After winning just 13 conference games combined in his first three seasons, Stackhouse has won 10 SEC games this season. That is a sign of marked improvement under his leadership. The team has showed a real dedication to hardwork and toughness, which is something “Stack” has been stressing since his arrival. He wanted to build his team to be tougher than the opponent, because on most nights Vandy is the less talented team.
Jerry Stackhouse Beats John Calipari On Senior Night
Even with the success of winning ten conference games this season, none is sweeter than a win against Kentucky at Rupp Arena. That’s what coach Stackhouse and his guys did on Wednesday, win a program-defining road game against the conference bully by being tougher and more physical than the Wildcats on what was their Senior Night. During the week, a pretty confident Stackhouse believed his guys could ruin it.
That belief by Stackhouse was reportedly used as “bulletin board” material for the Wildcats, but it didn’t matter, as the Commodores got the win.
Vandy Wins Without Top Player
Vandy won without their best player in Liam Robbins, who exited with an injury early in the game, depriving fans of the highly-anticipated matchup with Kentucky big man Oscar Tschiebwe.
But Stackhouse was confident his guys could overcome the loss of their best player and still win.
“We played without Liam before.” Stackhouse said afterward. “I mean, obviously we’re a better team when he’s part of it, but you know, [Quentin Morela-Brown], I mean, it speaks to our team, and other guys stepping up and being ready. I mean, I think we preached that. That’s kind of been our motto, you know, since my time here. Again, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, and I thought Q kept himself in shape. He hadn’t played as many minutes, you know, since Liam’s kind of been on a tear here lately, but he stepped in and filled in admirably.”
That’s the type of win that helps with recruiting and things of that nature. It’s the first in Lexington since 2007, and it took everything Vandy had to pull it off.
Stackhouse Shows John Calipari Respect After Beating Him
After getting the conference win he’s been hunting since his arrival in Nashville, Stackhouse was very gracious in victory and when speaking of opposing head coach John Calipari.
“You know beating the king at his house, it is pretty special,” said Stack, a walking bucket who averaged nearly 17 points per game over 18 NBA seasons.
“I’ve got so much respect for Calipari, and what he’s built and what’s he’s done. His program, I mean, I mean everybody had him buried at the beginning of the year, and then he got his team playing as well as anybody in the country right now. So, this is a big feat for us, not to just come here and beat them, but being a team that’s probably playing as good of basketball as anybody.”
Vandy still has a shot at March Madness. Sitting at 17-13 overall and 10-7 in the SEC, they’ll need a win or two in next week’s conference tournament to feel completely safe about being one of the 68 teams chosen.
If Stackhouse pulls this off, his decision to accept the challenge of coaching at Vanderbilt, despite its high academic standards and recruiting constraints will prove to be destiny.