Where To Go From Here For Stackhouse, Commodores Basketball
Saturday afternoons 66-45 blowout loss to arch-rival Tennessee at Memorial Gym might well have been the moment Vanderbilt men's basketball officially hit rock bottom.
No, it's not the fault of first-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse, well not the biggest part of it anyway. One can question coaching decisions he has made during the course of his first 17 games on the bench, but that's it.
Stackhouse didn't recruit the majority of this roster, he didn't fail to find more shooters who can knock down threes or scorers who can slice and dice defenses with drives to the basket. He's simply coaching what he was given, and with all due respect to the current players on the roster, that's not much in the SEC, especially when your best player goes down for the year.
This team plays hard, they did Saturday. They never quit despite being down double-digits late in the game. From my very limited interactions with them, they seem like outstanding young men who have bright futures in whatever they choose to do, it won't be in basketball for most, however.
Again, I'm not trying to beat on kids, but when looking at the current state of Vanderbilt basketball one has to be honest and part of that honesty is looking at every aspect of the program. That includes the current talent level.
There are some pieces on this current roster, pieces that could play a big role in reviving the program, but they need some better players upfront to lead them.
Why do I say that? One has to look no further than this season when Aaron Nesmith was healthy to see that with a true star player, the current pieces were able to fill roles and play complimentary basketball. Nesmith and Saben Lee, who is an outstanding talent himself were a nice one-two punch that along with their teammates around them gave hope that the conference losing streak would indeed end this season.
Without Nesmith, however, Lee is now the focus of the opponent's defense. Yes Maxwell Evans has stepped up his game and Scottie Pippen Jr. is playing at a nice level for a true freshman, but neither of those players is on Nesmith's level and right now they don't scare anyone.
In the future, perhaps even before the end of this season, both Evans and Pippen Jr. might well be, but they aren't there today, and the Commodores need it sooner rather than later.
So what's the solution now?
I'm no basketball coach. My one season fo youth league basketball as a 10-year old kid in 1978 doesn't qualify me to talk X's and O's of coaching, but as someone who has watched college and called hundreds of high school games over the years, I understand the game.
The game is about talent. Talent wins even sometimes when the coaching isn't the best. Combine great talent and great coaching and you get something really special.
Stackhouse has to endure the remainder of this season, there's no avoiding that, and with the looks of things, it's not going to be much fun. When the season ends, that when the real work will begin for him and his staff.
I think he can coach, and it seems his players like him, but what can he do on the recruiting trail will be the real test of he and his staff, because without more talent, things will remain the same, and that's not going to be good enough for anyone associated with Vanderbilt basketball.