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Carolina alumnus Jerry Stackhouse named Vanderbilt head coach

The timing of the 44-year old’s move to the college game is interesting for Heels fans.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Stackhouse is a college basketball head coach.

The 19-year NBA veteran, who spent two years in the broadcast booth for the Detroit Pistons before getting into coaching, has had a tremendous career trajectory. He was hired as an assistant for the Toronto Raptors in June of 2015, and was named the head coach for the team’s G-League affiliate the following year.

All he did in his first season coaching Raptors 905 was lead them to the G-League championship, picking up Coach of the Year honors in the process. He quickly ascended to the radar of NBA teams, as he was a finalist for the Raptors’ coaching vacancy last offseason. When Nick Nurse was named Dwane Casey’s successor, Stackhouse caught on as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.

He finalized a six-year deal with Vanderbilt yesterday, replacing Bryce Drew, who went 0-18 in SEC play in 2018-19. The Commodores have fallen off the map since Kevin Stallings left for Pitt— an amazing thing to consider, given Pitt’s fall after Stallings’ arrival. Drew went 18-38 in conference play, 40-59 overall, and on program reputation alone got the ‘Dores to the 2016 NCAA Tournament despite a 19-15 record.

In becoming a college head coach, Stackhouse, obviously only recently a coach, has put himself firmly in the crosshairs as a potential successor to Roy Williams.

The Carolina Family (TM) coaching pipeline has dried up, to an extent. Larry Brown and George Karl, prominent figures in the Heels’ two previous coaching searches, are too old. Names like Jeff Lebo, Jason Capel, and Buzz Peterson, among others, largely flamed out. King Rice has stalled a bit after a hot start at Monmouth, and Wes Miller is still a major promotion away from being in the running.

Insert Stackhouse, who even at Vanderbilt can point to a Carolina connection.

Connections notwithstanding, Stackhouse was a very hot name in NBA circles, stating repeatedly that his ultimate goal was to be an NBA head coach. One is led to wonder if this signals a change in course for the Kinston native, as on paper he certainly seems to have the bona fides to be one hell of a boon for the Commodores:

  • 19 years of NBA connections with a mighty fine track record (post-Allen Iverson, at least)? Check.
  • Demonstrated ability to coach at a high level? His G-League champions went 39-11 (including an absurd 21-4 record on the road). His total regular season record was 70-30. Check.
  • A recent NBA track record, and ‘cool’ factor? His reverse dunk against Duke still plays on loop before any Carolina/Duke game. Check.

Stack will have his work cut out for him. With a depleted roster, the in-state success of conference rival Tennessee, Memphis’ recent hire of Penny Hardaway, and a couple of decent basketball programs in bordering Kentucky, his coaching and recruiting acumen will be put to the test from day one.

While I certainly don’t expect the next UNC coaching search to be as simplistic as the one in 2000— where Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, and Dick Baddour shoehorned Matt Doherty in as the guy because (loud voice font) UNC CONNECTIONS— the fact that Stackhouse was a decorated player at Carolina, a North Carolina native, and a successful coach at every stop thus far, certainly doesn’t hurt matters.

With all due respect to Hubert Davis, who was ostensibly hired to be groomed as a successor to Williams, we have no basis on which to judge him as a head coach at any level. Some of Roy’s assistants, including Jerod Hasse at Stanford and C.B. McGrath at UNC-Wilmington, haven’t done anything to stand out either.

If the Tar Heels are lucky enough to get six more years from Roy Williams, there now exists some hope that there is a ready-made successor to the Hall of Famer just one state away ready to ascend to the throne.