For decades, Vanderbilt’s recruiting pitch to athletes across sports has been simple: this is a place where you can get a world-class education and compete against some of the best athletes in the world in the Southeastern Conference.
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse wants to add one more part to that pitch: he wants to develop recruits into NBA-caliber players.
Stackhouse comes from a unique perspective as a college coach, having played in the NBA for nearly two decades and having coached in the NBA as an assistant for two different franchies. To hear him tell it, his perspective is the most unique in college basketball, and he hopes that will translate into recruiting talented prospects with high aspirations.
“I think we have a great sale,” Stackhouse said at an introductory press conference on Monday. “We’re attractive, we’ve got the blueprint. I know what they’re looking for, I know what they’re workouts are like when you go to a pro team. I don’t know if all coaches have that. I can get any coach in the NBA on the phone. I can get any GM on the phone. So can this guy right here [AD Malcolm Turner]. We offer a really attractive situation here now. At the same time, you’re going to get one hell of an education. That’s our pitch and that’s going to be our sale. Not much more than that.”
Another unique attribute that Stackhouse brings to the table is his experience as a coach in the G League. Stackhouse has seen what it takes to succeed in the G League and make it to the NBA level. A lot of that has to do with development, and many times, he notices aspects of players’ game that should have been addressed in college.
Now that Stackhouse is coaching in college, he’ll be able to truly oversee all aspects of player development and get players where they want to go.
“I see these kids coming in and see the development that’s needed for them to have success,” Stackhouse said. “In the G League, a lot of those kids are maybe just a smidge under those 60 players that got drafted. Some of them did get drafted, I see a lot of them. It’s not a big difference, they’re right on the precipice of being probably a lottery pick. It’s just a few little things, improving little nuances that probably if they learned it at the college level, that could have been the difference in them being drafted and not being drafted. Hopefully I can bring that to the table to help out our prospects that have that type of ability.”
To round out his wealth of experience in elite-level basketball, Stackhouse also owned and operated the Stackhouse Elite AAU program, a program that produced lots of collegiate talent and NBA talent like Brandon Ingram. With that experience, Stackhouse can say he has been involved at every level of elite basketball through his playing and coaching careers.
During his time in the AAU world, he has seen the good side of the basketball world, and the corrupt side. Even with his lofty goals and ambitions for the development of his players, Stackhouse wants to make sure he does not lose the integrity of the program and the university.
“I know what it looks like because I’ve had all these college coaches calling me when I was running my [AAU] program,” he said. “I understand that dynamic, I understand the dirty world of it as well. We’re always going to be above the fray in that. We’re going to do it the right way.”
With the knowledge and wisdom that can only come from a lengthy basketball career as a player, coach and executive, Stackhouse hopes to combine that experience with Vanderbilt’s appeal as an elite university in the SEC and turn turn it into a recruiting pitch that’s unlike any other in college basketball.
“It’s a little tougher to recruit here because of the standards that we have, and we’re proud of those standards and are going to find those athletes that fit the bill not only on the floor but in the academic arena as well,” Stackhouse said. “We’re excited about that and excited about the possibility of getting out of the road and getting into the living rooms and telling kids how we can help them off the court but on the court as well. I don’t think there’s really a coach in the country that has a better blueprint of what’s needed to go to that next level, because I’ve done it.”