Friday, May 24, 2013

The Hippodrome: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2013 at 8:54 AM

This Week In The 'Drome... we need to talk.

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Opening Face-off

Ring Up vs Sit Down: Given David Poile's explanation of how it came that he fired a coach who'd been with his team for a decade via phone, this is how we suspect it went down:

"Hello?"

"Hey, Peter. It's David. I need you to come on down to the arena."

"Oh cool. OK. Well, I'm at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, so I'll be in town later."

"Hmm, well. This is awkward."

"What do you mean? We can just meet Wednesday. Say...2 PM?"

"That's not good for me, Peter. See, here's the thing, I have something else going on then."

"What the heck else do you have going on at 2 PM on a Wednesday in late May?"

"The thing is we have a big announcement scheduled for then and...well...well, you're fired."

"Oh."

"Yeah. Yeah, we hired Phil Housley. So, um — sorry, pal!"

If Poile's story is true — that he called now-former associate coach Peter Horachek with the expectation that he was already in Nashville — that's a bad break. Sure, no one wants to come all the way back to work to get fired (NSFW language at that link). Even so, one feels that Poile could have handled it better.

The presumption was probably that Horachek — one of The 'Drome's favorite personalities in Nashville sports — would keep quiet, so the Preds could simultaneously announce his dismissal and the hiring of Housley (the man who guided the U.S. juniors team to a gold medal, and a coveted coach). But Horachek didn't feel like playing along.

It's another misstep in a year of them for the organization — even though they got their man in the end. Poile's convoluted explanation that this could be good for Horachek is as hollow as the team's depth chart was this season.

While it's true Horachek had been a finalist for a handful of head coaching jobs in the last several years, it's unlikely firing him as an assistant is going to result in him being hired as a head coach.

The Week Behind

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No, The Other One: It's hard to overstate the importance of John Rich — not that one — to Vanderbilt athletics (though That John Rich did play a bit of role in 'Dore lore).

Rich, who died this week, was a Vandy letterman in the 1940s and then became a chief benefactor for the Black and Gold.

As John Ingram put it:

"He was a man that cared deeply about Vanderbilt and the athletes, and he was a product of that. He certainly was the flag bearer over there and I give him full credit, because he did it at a harder time. He was firm in his convictions. I'm just sad he's not going to be around for another 10 years with the athletic success we're having now.

"I'm not sure if we would still be playing major sports at Vanderbilt if John Rich hadn't stood up for it. Mr. Rich was a guy from Marks, Miss., who came to Vanderbilt to play sports and earn an education, then parlayed it into success in business.

"John took great pride in seeing the surge in athletic results over the years. And no one deserved it more than Mr. Rich."

That's not overselling it. At the nadir of Vandy athletics — think the mid-'90s era of Woodyball at Dudley and VBK in the Gym — there were very real discussions about Vandy leaving the SEC or even dropping most of its Division I athletics altogether. Rich, more or less, kept things afloat with his largesse, setting the table for upgrades at Vandy's facilities and the current run of success at West End.

He was 85.

Hoovered: The Commodores went to the Birmingham suburb as the odds-on favorites to leave with the SEC title. But the best laid plans and all that.

The 'Dores were shut-out — the first time Tim Corbin's team failed to score a run in their opener against No. 8 seed Texas A&M, pushing them into the repechage.

What made the loss worse was that South Carolina, largely considered the SEC's second-best team, also got upset, so Vandy had to open their loser's bracket run against the Gamecocks Thursday afternoon. It took extras, but Vandy avoided the ignominy of being bounced in two games.

As for South Carolina? They probably don't mind much. They've been the College World Series title game three straight years and haven't, in that time, advanced past the conference semis.

Go figure.

Hoops Hires: Vandy added respected recruiter and delightfully named assistant Yanni Hufnagel, while Lipscomb found their man in longtime Belmont assistant Casey Alexander.

Halftime Entertainment

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Troll Hunting: Social media is a funny beast. The very thing that makes it possible for us to feel closer to teams and athletes and coaches also makes it possible for us to say very mean things about them. And of course, it makes it possible for them to read the same very mean things.

One UT fan thought it wise to slander the wife of Vanderbilt assistant Herb Hand.

On Monday, Hand received some hateful and disgusting tweets from a Tennessee fan about his wife.

Hand replied by saying, "You are welcome to come to my office so we can discuss this face to face...I fully welcome the opportunity. Feel free to come by anytime so we can talk about this in person like men."

He also texted the awful remarks to Butch Jones and tweeted a picture of it.

"Here is what one of your fans sent me on Twitter today about Deb. Just thought you'd like to know," Hand wrote. "If any of our fans were to say something like this about Barb, please let me know so I can personally whip their ass."

Certainly, applause to Hand for challenging the keyboard warrior — although ignoring idiots can be just as effective as confronting them. Although isn't sending a copy to Butch Jones (and then sending a screen-cap of the text to media) a little odd? Does Butch Jones know every dumb UT fan (or even every smart one)?

This isn't Bayside where Mr. Belding can go and have a sit-down with the principal of Valley about the prank war in an effort to end it.

Anyway, don't be a jerk.

The Week Ahead:

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The Long Way Home: Vandy looks to crawl back to a conference title the hard way tonight with a 6 p.m. game, starting a weekend run they'll need to sweep to take the trophy. This should be no problem as the Commodores have had very little problem sweeping SEC opponents on the weekend all year.


Overtime

Low Block: Last year, you may remember, Maryland football coach Randy Edsall blocked the transfer of quarterback Danny O'Brien to Vanderbilt.

He was, rightly, pilloried for that. Coaches transfer all the time, with impunity and very little recourse bar a buyout that their new employer is going to pay anyway. Players, on the other hand, are on one-year grants-in-aid, but can have their transfer held up by pettiness like Edsall's (while Edsall claimed Vandy was tampering with O'Brien, it was never proven and most people consider his block of the transfer as retaliation against James Franklin for some slight or another).

Now Vandy hoopster Sheldon Jeter wants to transfer, wanting to play closer to home, but Vandy has blocked his hometown school — Pitt — for reasons that are not forthcoming.

Keeping a guy from transferring is understandable. Even keeping him away from a school that shows up on the out-of-conference schedule is acceptable, if a little silly. Or if there truly was tampering, fine.

But Vandy — at least through the voice of David Williams — is keeping mum on why Jeter can't play for the Panthers.

We're ever closer to the professionalization of college sports — or, perhaps, to make a better point, the acknowledgement of the professionalization — and these little power plays by coaches and administrators smack of the olden days of the reserve clause.

Either put guys on four-year deals or give them (more or less and within reason) free rein to transfer on one-year grants-in-aid. And if a guy wants to be closer to home, you better have a damn good reason for not letting him move.

Fire me an email (but please don't fire me by email) at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.

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