Jerry Stackhouse Played the Race Card and Lost Because That’s Usually What Happens When Vanderbilt Plays

Jerry Stackhouse has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and edged closer to unemployment. The Vanderbilt men’s college basketball coach got caught playing the race card in a lengthy interview last week and then had to play the “my words were misinterpreted” card in a postgame interview during which he should have been focused on discussing a rare NCAA victory.

Like we said, he’s moving a little closer to unemployment.

Jerry Stackhouse has an extensive basketball background

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Jerry Stackhouse came out of high school as a coveted recruit who played at the University of North Carolina under legendary coach Dean Smith. After averaging 15.7 points a game over two seasons (one as a starter), he declared for the 1995 NBA draft and landed with the Philadelphia 76ers as the No. 3 overall selection.

That was the start of Stackhouse’s 18-year tour through the NBA with eight teams that earned him $84 million in salary and a pair of All-Star Game appearances as a member of the Detroit Pistons after being traded early in his third season. Stackhouse was primarily a role-playing journeyman in the second half of his career but an impact player early on with averages of 24.2 points and 4.9 assists from 1999-2003.

Stackhouse, 46, retired from the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 and caught on as an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies. He became the head coach at Vanderbilt on April 5, 2019.

Jerry Stackhouse has been under fire at Vanderbilt

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Halfway through his second season at Vanderbilt, Jerry Stackhouse is embroiled in drama. Hired after Bryce Drew’s final Commodores team went winless in the SEC, Stackhouse posted a 3-15 conference record last season. Vanderbilt is 2-8 in the SEC and 6-10 overall following its 72-51 victory at Mississippi State on Feb. 13, 2021.

After the rare win, Stackhouse was addressing a controversy for the second time in three weeks. Last month, he went on a profanity-laced rant during which Stackhouse called out a Vanderbilt freshman over his effort.

“We’re still fighting, still going at it, but at the end of the day we’re just doing dumb stuff over and over and over again,” he said. “I take responsibility for it, but I haven’t had any teams that I’ve had before that I continue to tell the same things as much as I’ve told this team for them to still come out and do the same s–t.”

Some observers took it as an indication that Stackhouse was hitting the panic button early in his six-year contract. But in an interview with The Athletic, Stackhouse spoke about his love for the job.

“There’s not enough vacations, there’s not enough golf courses, there’s not enough anything that won’t lead me back to wanting to be somewhere in the gym, trying to help somebody learn about basketball,” he said. “And I’m able to do it at one of the most prestigious universities in a Power 5 conference against some of the best coaches in the country. Hall of Fame coaches. To match my wits and things I’ve learned and things I know about the game of basketball. Why wouldn’t I want to do that?”

The interview with The Athletic raised a furor

In the article by The Athletic, Jerry Stackhouse rejected criticism that he lacked college coaching experience when hired at Vanderbilt. Highly regarded basketball reporter Jeff Goodman has been a noted critic.

“How am I not qualified when I played basketball at the highest level and played under some Hall of Fame coaches?” Stackhouse asked. “I don’t have the acumen to know what I’m looking at? What’s the angst? And it becomes the things we see right in front of us, man. All I can say is, 75 million people voted for (Donald) Trump. That’s all I can say. You ain’t fooling me. I know what it’s about, a lot of you hate everything we did when we came here about the staff, the diversity of the staff …”

Some took the reference to Trump as slamming fans, but the context suggests he meant reporters. Given that minorities still make up a fraction of the sports media and Stackhouse invoked Trump’s name, however, it’s difficult to view his comment as anything other than a suggestion of racism by Goodman and others.

“I didn’t get that type of response (from fans) when I when I was hired,” he said after the Mississippi State game, according to The Tennessean. “It was from the Jeff Goodman’s and those type of guys. When I said, ‘You guys,’ when you saw that, I was talking more to (The Athletic reporter) and the media. It was addressed more to the media, about how we came in and how we looked. It wasn’t the traditional — we didn’t check the boxes for all of that.”

Implying that it’s the reporters who are racist doesn’t exactly make it right.

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