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VOL. 43 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 26, 2019

Perdue likes Turner’s ‘outside the box’ hire

By Tom Wood

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Vanderbilt basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse, left, listens as Athletics Director Malcom Turner answers a question during the news conference announcing Stackhouse’s hiring earlier this month. Stackhouse replaced Bryce Drew, who was fired March 22 after a 9-23, 0-18 season.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey

It was a short and straightforward question – could Jerry Stackhouse be the right basketball coach at the right time for Vanderbilt?

Will Perdue’s answer was as enormous and upfront as his still massive 7-foot-1 frame.

“Honestly, we don’t know that. What I can say, from what I know about Jerry, is that he’s a good coach,” says Perdue, 53, who starred for the Commodores in the mid-1980s and was a first-round pick (11th overall) of the Chicago Bulls in the 1988 NBA Draft.

Perdue didn’t retire until 2001, meaning his pro career overlapped with Stackhouse’s for six seasons.

Once competitors, now they are on the same team, sharing a united goal of trying to bring Vanderbilt back from the depths of a winless Southeastern Conference season – a league first that nobody saw coming when Bryce Drew optimistically began his third and ultimately final season, finishing 9-23 overall and 0-18 in the SEC before closing out with a 17-point loss to Texas A&M in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

Perdue and all-time Vanderbilt scoring leader Shan Foster were among the friends, family, supporters and current players who joined local media for Stackhouse’s introductory news conference. Afterward, he didn’t mince words that he supported the coaching change made by new athletics director Malcolm Turner.

“One of the things I like, first of all, in regards to the hire that Malcolm made was he was willing to think outside the box,” Perdue adds. “I think sometimes people see Vanderbilt as a limitations destination instead of a challenging destination in the sense that you can accept the challenge or you can see the challenge as something you can’t handle.

“I was very fortunate to play against (Stackhouse). I respect his knowledge of the game as a coach, the success he had in the G League which he talked about because of the revolving roster, his ability to identify players’ strengths and weaknesses in the best assessment of what the team needs.”

‘Unacceptable’

Perdue, like every other Vandy supporter, was shocked by how quickly the program plummeted with prize recruit Darius Garland’s season-ending knee injury.

“At the end of the day, 0-18 is just unacceptable,” Perdue continues. “I went to school here, I understand the challenges. But when I sit there and see that Virginia’s in the championship game, that Duke is there every year, and then some people are like ‘those schools don’t compare to Vanderbilt,’ but they’re in the same neighborhood.

“They have similar requirements.”

Perdue says a fractured fan base must pull together to support the new direction of the program, and that it all begins with recruiting.

“We’re recruiting from the same quality talent pool that they are. So if they can do it, we can do it. Again, it’s something that all facets of Vanderbilt University (understand), from coaching to support to fans … and they all have to be on the same page. And I think that’s where we’ve had some discourse in the past.

“And that’s where things have to change in the future.”

Fruitful hire?

Foster, the former All-SEC guard and SEC Player of the Year who scored a record 2,011 career points for the Commodores from 2005-08, says Stackhouse has all the credentials to be a great college coach, even though he’s never coached at the collegiate level.

“The talent that Jerry brings to the table from a coaching perspective, as well as his background of playing at a high level, playing for great coaches, his understanding of the game, his tenacity to get to a place of success, I think it’s going to translate well to our basketball program,” Foster adds.

“I’m excited to see the fruits of it. I think this is a tremendous day for Vanderbilt University, for our basketball program.”

One major advantage Stackhouse has over many other coaches, Stackhouse says, is he can show a player what he’s doing wrong. Even though he’s been retired six years, Stackhouse, 44, looks to be in great shape and able to school any player on the team.

“Those are the things that many times go underrated when you’re talking about a coach coming in with a team, when he has the ability to get out there and show the players what his expectations are as opposed to just telling them,” Foster says.

“It’s just an added bonus. A man that commands the respect of the other guys is the way that you can’t really simulate in any other way.”

And Foster says he might have to challenge Stackhouse’s game somewhere down the road.

“I might have to get him out there and see what’s going on,” he adds with a laugh. “I know he wore the 32 (Foster’s Vanderbilt jersey number and current age) at one point in time. I might have to see if he’s still got it.”

The big picture

So now that the new coach has his new staff mostly in place and is focusing on salvaging recruiting, Perdue and others are curious to see how Vandy basketball will be restored and taken to new heights by Stackhouse and Turner.

Perdue says it goes far beyond the record and what transpires on the court to include financial, facility and fan support to present a united front.

“Now the question is, can he put together the right staff and be given the necessary opportunities, but also the necessary resources,” Perdue adds. “I mean, you talk about resources, you’re not only talking about the financial, but you’re also talking about the ability to upgrade Memorial, the practice facility. They say you’ve got to keep up with the Joneses. And the Joneses in the SEC are the other schools.

“And it’s a big-picture thing. I understand that it’s a basketball hire, but this isn’t just about Jerry. This is about Jerry, this is about Malcolm, and this is about whoever the new president or chancellor ends up being.

“It’s not just solely on Jerry’s shoulders. It’s about all the above.”

Stackhouse discussed student support and Memorial Gym upgrades – starting with the locker room – when he met for a recent lunch with the Vanderbilt Hustler sports staff and student journalists at Rand Dining Center.

“We have some plans to make some cosmetic changed and some upgrades to the arena,” Stackhouse said. “There’s a really nice shell and we’ve got to go outside (current walls) to do things right.

“(Turner) is committed to doing it and he’s giving me a lot of autonomy to make those decisions that I think, if I feel this should be here, that should be there, we will utilize space. We will take advantage of it and will make a space where these guys feel like they want to be here.”

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