This will not be a long story, because the comparison I am about to make is very specific and doesn’t need to be especially elaborate: Vanderbilt hiring Jerry Stackhouse as its next men’s basketball coach is a lot like the Arizona State Sun Devils hiring Herm Edwards to be their next head football coach roughly a year and a half ago.
What is your immediate reaction to that statement?
Some of you in the room might immediately connect the dots. For those who have not, I would not have expected you to.
So here goes:
When Ray Anderson, Arizona State’s athletic director, made the decision to fire Todd Graham as head coach, a lot of people — I won’t necessarily say MOST, but certainly a lot — felt Graham deserved another season in Tempe, that his work was not finished and that the final verdict on his ability to produce had not yet been settled beyond all doubt.
Remember Zemek’s coach-firing principles: One core principle is that you have to KNOW the coach won’t be able to meet your goals. If you’re uncertain, giving one more prove-it season generally doesn’t hurt… unless you have a rock-star replacement ready to go.
Herm Edwards, safe to say, was not a rock-star hire to replace Todd Graham.
Who is Ray Anderson, the man who pushed Graham out quickly and brought in Herm?
Anderson had worked in the National Football League front office. He had cultivated a relationship with Edwards in that capacity. Anderson is Harvard-educated and had his own specific idea of how to run an athletic department, cut from anything-but-traditional cloth. He wanted his guy and got him, as part of a coaching search which was not particularly extensive.
Does it all seem clearer now?
New Vanderbilt athletic director Malcolm Turner had worked in the NBA’s D League, which became the G League due to a sponsorship from Gatorade. He had cultivated a relationship with Jerry Stackhouse in that capacity. Turner is Harvard-educated and had his own specific idea of how to run an athletic department, cut from anything-but-traditional cloth. He wanted his guy and got him, as part of a coaching search which was not particularly extensive.
If you have a general awareness of Vanderbilt athletics, this isn’t a “traditional” athletic department to begin with. Earlier this century, Vanderbilt has gone through processes and changes “normal” athletic departments don’t generally face.
One could say that Memorial Gym is unique in the larger workings of college basketball the way Vanderbilt is unique as a major sports program within the SEC and the world of the Power Five conferences.
Arizona State’s non-traditional approach to football and Vanderbilt’s non-traditional situation in the SEC lend an extra layer of comparisons to these two moves, one in football and one in college hoops.
If Edwards is one of the more fascinating coach-hiring stories in modern college football, Jerry Stackhouse fits the bill in basketball.
Sit back and enjoy where these two rides ultimately take the college sports community in the coming years.
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