The NBA’s loss is Vandy’s gain.
Former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse was considered to have the name recognition, experience and basketball acumen to become an NBA head coach. When the Pistons fired Stan Van Gundy, Stackhouse, who once played for Detroit, had just won a D-League championship as a coach and was named the League’s Coach of the Year in 2017, was among the leading candidates.
Unfortunately, the Pistons felt that former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was a better fit. Detroit’s loss is Vanderbilt’s gain as the university hired Stackhouse as head coach of the Men’s Basketball team on Friday.
Stackhouse, 44, was recently an assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies. Prior to that, he was the HNIC of the Toronto Raptors G League affiliate for two seasons, while Vanderbilt Athletic Director Malcolm Turner was working as president of the G League.
Turner, just three months into his tenure, didn’t have to look very far to find a coach to replace Bryce Drew, who was fired after going 21-43 and failing to make the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.
Several other coaches were linked to the job, including former Georgetown coach John Thompson III and UCF coach Johnny Dawkins. Stackhouse, a new face in the college ranks, known for his ability to develop players, prevailed.
Vandy plays in the tough SEC. The Commodores have never reached a Final Four, have one Conference title since 1951 and haven’t won a regular-season championship since 1993. To say that the school is starving for a brand name with recruiting and elite coaching ability to compete with the abundance of power schools in the SEC is an understatement.
Some college basketball experts are calling the Stackhouse hire a huge risk because Stackhouse doesn’t have prior college head coaching experience.
But a guy who is a former Sports Illustrated National Player of the Year in 1995 with UNC, had an 18-year career in the NBA and is a former two-time All-Star with championship coaching experience at the pro level, is hardly a risk.
The hire also provides an African-American coach with the rare opportunity to coach a D-I hoops program in a power conference. Stackhouse is fully aware of the magnitude of his challenge.
The state of Tennessee now has two former NBA All-Stars as college coaches in Memphis coach Penny Hardaway and Stackhouse.
Vandy’s hoops program was treading water anyway and if Stackhouse can bring some big name excitement and improve athletic recruiting, then he’s worth the gamble. The school is beautiful and the educational opportunities are plentiful, but when it comes to making a dent in the SEC on an athletic scale, the university leaves much to be desired.
As part of Stackhouse’s agreement to come to the university, Vandy has pledged to upgrade its financial commitment to the program, including increased assistant coaching salaries and budgets. Sounds like a new mission for Vandy. They want to be relevant in basketball and have hired someone who can help attract and cultivate the deep, growing talent pool of hoopers in the SEC, which is no longer known as just a football conference.