NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For most of his lengthy basketball career, Jerry Stackhouse chose to wear the number 42. This decision made sense on a number of fronts: it was a reverse nod to one of Stackhouse’s older brothers, Tony Dawson, who wore 24 while starring at Florida State. James Worthy, one of Stackhouse’s favorite players with the Los Angeles Lakers and a fellow North Carolina grad, also wore 42 as a pro.
But Stackhouse also appreciated another reason to wear 42. In a sense, he hoped to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson, whose jersey number became synonymous with a historic and trailblazing career in Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“I wanted it to serve as a dedication to Jackie Robinson and his entire legacy,” Stackhouse said. “We’ve always known who Jackie Robinson was, but that was when I really tried to dive into who he was and the tremendous contributions he made and barriers he broke.”
Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in a 1947 game with the Dodgers and went on to author a Hall of Fame career and play an iconic role in America’s civil rights movement. Today Stackhouse said he has not forgotten that Robinson was a symbol of progress, the same progress that allowed him to play 18 seasons in the NBA and forge a career in coaching.
Stackhouse, who was introduced as Vanderbilt’s new men’s basketball coach on April 8, embodies his own piece of history in his new role. He is the first African American men’s basketball coach in university history. In fact, Vanderbilt becomes the only Power Five school in the country with an African American men’s basketball coach, football coach (Derek Mason) and athletic director (Malcolm Turner).
— Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball (@VandyMBB) April 8, 2019
Last week, as Stackhouse toured campus during his first day on the job, he stopped by Kirkland Hall and noticed a painting of Perry Wallace in an adjacent room. In 1967, Wallace became the first black student-athlete to play in a varsity basketball game in the SEC. Wallace, who died in 2017 at 69, shattered a color barrier with the Commodores and helped spark an evolution in college basketball.
Now Stackhouse hopes to carry on that legacy at Vanderbilt.
“You fast-forward to now, and I’m the first African American to serve as men’s basketball head coach at Vanderbilt University,” Stackhouse said. “I’m still trying to wake up and see if this whole thing is real. You couldn’t tell this story any better.”