The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Smith: Don’t blame Stackhouse for the end of the streak

Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse is laying a foundation for the future despite the recent tough stretch.
Truman McDaniel
Yves Pons hits a short jumper in the early minutes against Tennessee.

On Saturday night, Vanderbilt fell to in-state rival Tennessee 66-45 at home. It was the team’s third game without star forward Aaron Nesmith, and third loss in a row by 19 or more points. The Commodores also went 0-fer from 3-point land despite hoisting 25 attempts.

Vanderbilt’s 0-25 effort from beyond the arc snapped a streak of 1,080 consecutive games with a made three-pointer. The loss itself pushed Vandy’s winless streak in SEC play to 24 consecutive games.

One streak broke, while another – the team’s 24-game SEC losing skid – continued, and Vanderbilt fans seem to be concerned about the wrong one. Home fans booed 19-year-old freshman forward Dylan Disu for passing up a contested three point shot for an open dunk late in the game, a dunk he easily converted. It was the smart basketball play.

Following the game, some pointed blame at Coach Jerry Stackhouse. But that’s the wrong approach.  

In Stackhouse, Vanderbilt has hope. Thus far, he’s done everything right off the court. He began his tenure by convincing Disu and freshman guard Scotty Pippen Jr, who have both started a majority of games for him this season, to stick with their commitments following the dismissal of former coach Bryce Drew. He then went out and found talent wherever he could to try to piece together a makeshift roster, landing guard Jordan Wright, another frequent starter this season, and DJ Harvey, a Notre Dame transfer, among others. He’s made tremendous strides to increase student engagement on campus, whether by handing out free donuts on the first day of classes in the fall or working with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) team of and student consultants to attempt to create a more raucous environment at Memorial Gymnasium.

And while Vanderbilt’s streak of 0-4 in the SEC and 8-9 on the year has made success hard to see on the court, there have been noticeable improvements under Stackhouse, even over the course of this season. Senior center Clevon Brown was having by far his best season as a Commodore before an injury sidelined him for the past seven games. His eFG% (a stat that accounts for three-pointers instead of just a traditional field goal percentage and is more useful in today’s version of basketball) was up 15 percent from last year through nine games with improvement on both two and three-point shots, per Kenpom. His defensive rebounding rate was at a career high. His turnovers were lower than ever. Yes, Brown had played just nine games, but his loss cannot be understated to a team that lacked frontcourt depth already coming into the season. Vanderbilt was 6-3 with Brown in the lineup. They’re 2-6 since.  

As for the backcourt, just about every player has seen improvement under Stackhouse’s leadership. Let’s not forget that expectations were not that high for Nesmith coming into the season. Yes, he had a solid freshman campaign and was poised to be the team’s leader in the preseason, but not many expected Nesmith to be one of the best scorers in all of college basketball through January. This was a guy who scored 40 points over the final five games of last season. His lowest five game stretch in 2019? 95 points. Nesmith deserves most of the credit for using the offseason to better his jump shot and for making the actual shots, but Stackhouse is the one who drew up the plays to consistently find his best player open looks, and, as a career 44 percent shooter in the NBA (eFG%), he probably had a hand in helping Nesmith work on that jumper over the summer.

Saben Lee, even while having to bear the brunt of increased attention from opposing defenses over the past three games, boasts his best shooting percentages and assist rates to date this year. Bringing him off the bench was an unorthodox, yet effective, move.

Pippen and Wright have carved out solid roles early in their careers under Stackhouse. Both have steadily improved throughout the season and exceeded most preseason expectations.

So yes, the end of the streak is unfortunate. Sad. A bummer. But with two starters out and five players gone from a team that went winless in SEC play, is Stackhouse really to blame?

Admittedly, I have only followed Vanderbilt basketball for the better part of the last ten months. I cannot fully understand the emotion that the streak carried. I wasn’t one of the fans that watched Vanderbilt make a three every game for the last 34 years. I haven’t experienced Memorial Magic at its peak.

But I want to.

And isn’t that what we all want? The “magic” back?

Ultimately though, Vanderbilt basketball’s future success is measured by one thing and one thing only: wins. Not three-pointers. So, while yes, I can understand why the streak connects fans with Vanderbilt’s storied past, are three pointers really the reason? Aren’t the wins, the SEC championships and tournament appearances what fans want to return to?

The two other schools that held the streak with Vanderbilt, UNLV and Princeton, aren’t most famous for that. And they shouldn’t be. At the end of the day, it’s a stat. An anecdote. Cool, yes. But cooler? UNLV’s national championship in 1990. Princeton’s legendary Sweet Sixteen run in 1999. Actual wins.

That’s where Vanderbilt wants to reach. And Coach Stackhouse represents their best chance to do so. He represents hope and has a vision of what he needs to do in order to achieve his goals. To get Memorial Magic back. To bring the wins back. It’d be a shame if he was prevented from doing so because of blame for a bunch of three-pointers.

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Truman McDaniel
Truman McDaniel, Former Multimedia Sports Specialist
Truman McDaniel (2023) is a student in the College of Arts & Science majoring in Environmental and Ecological Biology and Political Science. In his free time, he enjoys taking pictures, drinking coffee and watching movies. He can be reached at [email protected].    
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Comments (4)

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Brian Day
4 years ago

I disagree with you Bryce. When the game is definitely out of hand and you’re down by 20 points with only a few minutes to go, Jerry should have called a time out and told the team they will live to fight another day but this one is over. Then he should have drawn up a play for a 3 pointer to at least give the fans the only positive they could have walked away with….the continuation of the 3 point streak. I just don’t think it mattered that much to Jerry or to the players but to the all the fans for the last 34 years….I guarantee you the streak mattered!

I’ve had season tickets for many years now and have experienced both the highs and lows of Vandy men’s basketball but I think we have reached an all time low. Call it fate, call it bad luck, call it whatever you want but we are in the same position as we were a year ago…only worse now that we lost the 3 point streak. Vandy is fast becoming a one and done school….we lose our one best player and our season is done.

Larry H
4 years ago

I am more concerned with the lack of recruiting success with this staff. The prior coaching staff was 4-0 when their 3 2019 recruits played. They had a stellar class lined up for 2020, while the current staff has no 5-star or 4-star recruits lined up, just one 3-star recruit that isn’t going to be the straw that can stir the drink.

The previous staff had Keon Johnson, Walker Kessler, Jalen Suggs, and Chet Holmgren all very interested in Vanderbilt. This staff couldn’t even pull off getting the 4-star recruit after hiring his high school coach.

What also concerns me is that opposing coaches make adjustments at halftime, and this staff seems lost against countering the move. When another team switches from a man with pressure off the ball to a match-up zone, and the offense stays the same, what is up with that?

The defense is indefensible. It does not appear that the players have been drilled in the fundamentals to the extent that a college coaching staff should teach. Numerous times, Commodore players aren’t even in proper alignments and techniques. Players that are extremely fast should not allow slower players to drive by them like their feet are nailed to the floor.

Offensive players off the ball are very easy to guard from a distance when they are as stationary as fire plugs.

For sure, the talent level is now quite low, but it doesn’t take a skilled eye to see that the coaching effort is also quite poor. The streak ended just as much because the current offense being run works when you have five players that are good enough to play pro ball. A college team that has maybe one player good enough to play pro ball needs to be more fundamentally sound in passing and moving without the ball, and the defense should be some form of a man to man with zone principles or a match-up zone that concentrates on pressuring 3-point shots and everything within 8 feet of the rim.

There are at least a dozen mid-major head coaches that would be doing a better job than the staff we have now. That’s what you get when you hire a head coach that never was even the #4 assistant at the collegiate level with no recruiting experience.

How have the other NBA coaches recently hired to coach at schools other than their alma mater with 0 prior college experience done?

Terry Porter 28-49 at Portland and 6-46 in his conference
Mike Dunleavy 24-69 at Tulane and 8-46 in his conference
Mark Price 30-42 at Charlotte and 16-20 in his conference
Isiah Thomas 26-65 at Florida Intl. and 14-36 in his conference
Michael Curry 39-84 at Florida Atlantic and 19-53 in his conference

The best in this era
Avery Johnson 75-62 at Alabama and 34-38 in his conference

All were fired! Stackhouse will be just like his peers that tried to be head basketball coaches in college without any prior experience as an assistant or having been an alum at the school. Just a couple of years experience as a recruiting assistant would have meant a big difference, as many former NBA personnel with as little as two years experience coaching and recruiting in college has shown to be quite successful.

Robert Davenport
4 years ago

It wasn’t just the 3 pointers, Bryce. It was the lack of ball movement, etc. on offense. UT’s defense was not that suffocating, but we were not setting screens consistently and taking the ball to the hole as aggressively as UT. 4 shot clock violations were inexcusable. That ineptitude on offense was what upset me the most.

We were already down by 20 or so, so why shouldn’t the fans at least want to see the streak continue? Coach has my support, but that was abysmal offensively.

Bob Redd
4 years ago

Bryce Smith nailed it. People need to quit majoring on minors. I’m glad the stupid streak is over maybe now we can all focus on what is really important winning games and championships and Stack house is just the man to take us there. Anchor Down!!!