The Jerry Stackhouse Era started with a bang Wednesday.
And afterward Vanderbilt’s first-year coach was still firing on what he expects out of his players – and what he expects those who follow the program to expect.
“I’ve never coached down at this level before. I’ve coached the pros. I’ve coached the best. I’ve seen the best on a night-to-night basis,” Stackhouse said after an 83-65 win over Southeast Missouri State inside Memorial Gymnasium. “The best in the world is who I’ve been coaching for the last four years. That’s who I’ve been playing against for the last 18 years.
“These are kids. They’re just coming from secondary school and grass roots so they got a lot to learn. And it’s the same thing – I don’t liken it so much as coaching as it is teaching. As we teach hopefully we get them the opportunity to perform what they’ve been taught on the court.”
A former G League head coach and NBA assistant, Stackhouse is now 1-0 in his college career. He quipped he’s a mere 878 victories away from tying the legendary coach Dean Smith – Stackhouse’s mentor and leader at the University of North Carolina where Stackhouse was an All-American player.
One day after Stackhouse’s 45th birthday the former NBA All-Star didn’t get too high after leaving with a victory in his pocket. He admitted he wouldn’t have been too low had the Commodores (1-0) extended what was a 20-game losing streak coming into the day.
“For us it’s about building,” Stackhouse said. “We don’t want to be the best team on November 6th. We want to be the best team in February and March. We don’t want to peak too soon. But at the same time we want to make sure we win games. It is a confidence builder for our guys.”
A lot of things were familiar for Vandy on Wednesday despite so many things being different. Sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith (25 points and seven 3s) and junior guard Saben Lee (21 points) led the offense as the Dores pulled away in the second half.
The Commodores also broke a nine-game losing streak at home. Stackhouse said he has tired about hearing about such streaks.
“We don’t live in last year. We don’t live in what happened,” he said. “More than half of the guys that are in that locker room know nothing about what happened last year. None of the coaches know about what happened last year. We’re not constantly throwing it up in their faces. Appreciate it if (the media) wouldn’t.
“But I understand that you were here so you got to compare it. But we don’t want to compare it. We just want to work on who we are, try to get better game by game, individually, hold them accountable for the mistakes they make. That’s all we care about is trying to improve game by game.”
Vandy had to take confidence from Wednesday’s win in the fact that it recovered from falling behind 34-32 within the first minute of the second half. It also withstood numerous SEMO (0-1) runs before finally upping its lead to as many as 20 points down the stretch.
Scotty Pippen led Vanderbilt with six assists and the Commodores won despite losing the battle in rebounds, bench points and points in the paint.
“I’ve been waiting for this for about 11 months. It’s been a while,” Nesmith said. “It was fun to get back out there with my brothers, brand new team, practically all freshmen. It was just good to get a win with them.
“We’re still learning. We got to learn to really step on people’s throats and not let up. We came out, right out the gate doing what we do, doing what we want to do, what we stand for and then we kind of relaxed and got lackadaisical. They came back and punched us in the mouth. We just got to keep playing for 40 minutes and not just one half.”
The Commodores will have a few days off before returning to action at 7 p.m. Monday when Texas A&M Corpus Christi (0-1) comes to town. Stackhouse said he was looking forward to reviewing the game tape from Wednesday’s win to find all the things his team needs to correct.
Then the mission is win No. 2 and inching that much closer to Smith’s total.
“I don’t think that we played bad in there, we just had a few miscues that allowed them to kind of get on a run and tie the game up,” Stackhouse said. “Those are all are correctable errors. That’s what I like. There’s not anything out there that happened to us today that we can’t fix and get better at.”