New landscape for coaches in college basketball

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he has an effective way to get his players’ attention when he’s frustrated without doing something stupid, like putting his hands on them.

He kicks a basketball as hard and high as he can inside Memorial Gym to make his point — without touching anyone.

“It’s so wrong to ever put your hands near a player to me ever,” Stallings said Wednesday. “I don’t even put my hands on a guy to move him from one spot to the next. It’s a bad practice because who knows when they’ve just done something that flips my switch in practice and I do something stupid, which I’m not inclined to because I’m never going to put my hands on him.”

Stallings, Butler’s Brad Stevens and Belmont coach Rick Byrd took part in a panel discussion on Integrity in Sports at Belmont University. Mike Rice and Rutgers were a hot topic, along with the pressure to win in this era of multi-million dollar paydays, schools switching conferences and the need to fill arenas.

Seeing only snippets of the video showing Rice shoving players and throwing basketballs at them left Stallings embarrassed for the coaching profession. Stallings said there’s no place for such behavior in college athletics.

“I hope that it wakes the administrators up all across the country that that kind of behavior can get put to rest,” Stallings said.

Coaches that Stevens talked with during the Final Four in Atlanta all were disappointed in Rice’s behavior, and Stevens said he’d never seen a practice like what he saw in the video. Byrd, one of 11 active coaches with more than 600 wins, said he has apologized to players for getting mad in the past with his frustration stemming from feeling his players made him look bad as a coach.

Byrd said he would never use Rice’s approach.

“He had on different shirts and shorts, so it wasn’t just one day,” Byrd said of Rice in the video. “That’s as bad as it gets. ... Personal attacks are just not necessary at all.”

The coaches also discussed how Tubby Smith was fired from Minnesota and Ben Howland at UCLA despite reaching the NCAA Tournament. Stallings said the pressure to win is a very real part of the job and Butler playing for two national titles in 2010 and 2011 with Stevens and VCU reaching the Final Four has ratcheted up expectations across the board.

“At a lot of places, it’s just about winning, and you’re going to see that happen in the Missouri Valley Conference, you’re going to see it happen in the Ohio Valley and the Atlantic Sun. It already happens in the Big East where they’re headed,” Stallings said of Butler. “It’s a fact of life, and you know it when you take the job.”

Stevens joked he forgot what conference Butler was in and that he didn’t have to worry about missing coaches’ meetings in the Horizon League. Butler will be playing in its third conference in three years this fall in the new Big East. Miss a coaches’ meeting in the Southeastern Conference? Stallings said that costs a pricey $10,000.

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