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Vanderbilt Basketball Emergency Roundtable Torchfork Mailbag: Answers to Your Questions

After the Ramajama debacle, the torchforks are out of storage, so let’s talk about it.

Vanderbilt v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Question(s) from Parlagi, ask_thedoctor, & jessecuster44:

Vanderbilt has historically given coaches 5 years — Watson Brown, VBK, Woody Widenhofer, and Stephanie White all come to mind. C.M. Newton and Kevin Stallings both had terrible fourth seasons at Vanderbilt and were retained. 11.1 PPG Rod Dowhower and 0-18 Bryce Drew are the two notable exceptions.

Will Vanderbilt’s administration give Stackhouse a fifth season? Do you personally feel he deserves a fifth season? If not, at what point would you part ways with him?


I’ll ask the inverse question: what would Stackhouse need to do to 1) retain his job at the end of this season; and, if retained at the end of this season, 2) not get fired next season?


In 4 Seasons, Stack has: Never beaten Kentucky, Never Beaten THEM, lost the streak, lost to Grambling, had his teams score <50 pts multiple times, fought with fans on social media, never recruited a player that has really panned out, and benched players for smiling in practice.

So why is there ANYONE who thinks he should be retained? What’s the upside of keeping him on?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’m just going to throw out there that none of us know whether he’ll be retained, because we’re not the people whose opinions matter.

My opinion on this is that he should be retained if he goes 9-9 in the SEC — regardless of anything that’s happened to this point, that would represent tangible improvement. I suspect if he goes 7-11 or 8-10 and maybe wins a game or two in the SEC Tournament, the powers that be may decide that he’s scrappy and worth it. Less than that, and he pretty clearly needs to go. Will Vanderbilt see it that way? That’s the million dollar question.

The other thing I’d want to watch for is players entering the transfer portal after the season. The reason why Stallings got retained even after a dreadful 2002-03 season (his fourth year) was because, basically, everybody was coming back the next season and the team would be better (they were.) We already know Liam Robbins is out of eligibility after this season, and if there are a bunch of other players expected to contribute next year who depart, I don’t know how you make the case that next season will be better. The thing that really was baffling about bringing Mason back after the 3-9 2019 was that Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb, and Jared Pinkney all departed and I don’t know what serious person thought they would be better after that.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’d say the Ramajama game was the last straw for me, only I’m not sure if I hadn’t already made up my mind about Stackhouse before this week. Either way, I’m done with him. Short of going on a magical run to the Tourney, or winning the NIT, there’s nothing he can do to get me back. Even then, I’d be back because I’m rooting for our kids, not for him. Again, I’m done with him.

Question from Your Uncle Mike:

If Stack is fired, leaves, whatever, how many/which players choose the transfer portal?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I don’t know that I would name any specific players, but anybody exercising the COVID bonus year who’s getting their degree is a threat to leave because that’s just how things work. Anybody who isn’t seeing the floor much is a threat to leave, and anybody who’s being benched for reasons that sound really stupid is a threat to leave, and I’ll leave it at that.

Andrew VU ‘04: This is a great question, but after the Ty Lawrence benching, I’m not sure more wouldn’t leave if Stack stays. Let’s just say that he’s had a tough time retaining talent in his tenure, and leave it at that.

Question from ShoogyMgShoogs:

Why didn’t Tyrin see the floor after scoring 20 against Bama last time?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Laughing in practice after the Texas A&M game, apparently.

Andrew VU ‘04: This is where I boil over with rage. The best intel we have is that Tyrin wasn’t mad enough in practice (based on Stackhouse’s judgment) after Saturday’s loss to aTm.

In the pre-enlightenment farcical play Tartuffe by Moliere, the severely illogical Orgon—after being told by his son, Damis, that the supposed holy figure he’s smitten with, Tartuffe, was trying to seduce Orgon’s wife, Elmire—dives full force into cognitive dissonance, and tells his wife the following reason for why he doesn’t believe either her or Damis:

“Ah, but you underplayed your part, my pet; you should have looked more angry, more upset.”

Like the unbelievable dumbass, Orgon, Stack’s engaging in projection... like an asshole, or idiot. He’s effectively saying, “I would have been more visibly angry—throwing chairs and stomping around like a child—so the fact that I saw you smile during practice means you’re not the type of competitor I want on the team.”

Yeah... no. Maybe Lawrence is just more mature than you, you well-dressed, petulant man. People have all sorts of reactions. I was the most competitive kid in the world, and would stomp and rant irrationally in the immediate aftermath of a game up until I was around 12. The next day at practice, though? Happy as all get out, because practice is fun, I was with my friends, and holding on to that amount of anger is unhealthy.

*Note: You’re still allowed to seethe with rage about Jeff Green traveling, of course.

Question from The Trialist:

Have the players quit on Slackhouse? If so, isn’t that the red line that should get any coach fired?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I would need more information than one game to come to that conclusion, though the Kentucky game last week wasn’t encouraging, either — but the Texas A&M game in between suggested that they haven’t. Then again, we’ll probably find out after the Ole Miss game.

Andrew VU ‘04: I don’t know if they have, but he’s sure as hell given them sufficient reason to. Full-on tanking the starting lineup to prove a point to his team, and then saying that 4 years in, they still don’t get the basics of what he’s trying to do? It might not be a them problem, coach.

p.s. I just noticed the “Slackhouse pun,” and I approve.

Question from Parlagi:

What are the best and worst fast food choices?

This doesn’t really have anything to do with basketball, but neither did last Saturday night.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The best fast food choice is quite clearly Wendy’s, and anybody who argues otherwise is simply wrong. The worst fast food choice is Panda Express. You would think fast food Chinese would be a good concept and you would be wrong. Just the most basic menu options from your local Chinese takeout place.

Andrew VU ‘04: Does SATCO count as fast food? I mean, you go in, you fill out a card, and they have your food ready by the time you’ve gotten to the register to pay. That’s pretty fast, I’d say. Oh, and there’s this Korean Fried Chicken place by me that I have to willfully erase the existence of from my memory, lest I get Cartman-level “Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!!!” fat. Freebirds makes some pretty good burritos. Heck, any high quality food truck should count.

As for the burger chains, I’ll agree with Tom w/r/t National chains in every town. However, if your town doesn’t have a better fast burger place than a Wendy’s—say, a Braum’s or a Freddie’s, for some examples—I feel bad for you.

The worst is Arby’s. That game on Tuesday was like eating Arby’s. The nihilist kind.

I’ll let this recent SNL sketch explain why:

Question from Dore Fan in Dallas:

Do you think VU should let Stack go and contact Kevin Stallings about the opening?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes to the first part, no to the second part, and I’m stunned that I even have to explain this. Hiring Stallings in 2023 is not hiring Stallings even in 2016, never mind 2008 or some other point in his career when he was actually good. He’s 62 years old, and he hasn’t coached at all since Pitt fired him in 2018 after he went 0-18 in the ACC. The reason he hasn’t coached at all is because he’s been under a show-cause order which he agreed to, and agreeing to a show cause order is a nice way of saying “I don’t intend to coach again, why would I care if you tell me that I can’t?” He hasn’t even done the thing where you coach in the NBA or at a JUCO while you serve out a show cause, either. If you thought Stallings was mailing it in from 2012-16, just imagine what he’d do now.

Now — I would certainly recommend a new coach seeing if Stallings wants to come aboard in some sort of off-court role where he doesn’t have to recruit. That might be a good idea. Actually making him the head coach? LOL no.

Andrew VU ‘04: If you could give me peak Stallings, I’m all in, but he had long since lost his fastball when we traded him to Pittsburgh for a bag of balls and a Bryce Drew Clap Machine. Find me a cantankerous Shine-O-Ball-O head that can draw up picture perfect Xs and Os inbounds plays, recruit to a system, and get the most out of his various Ross Neltners and Red Gordons... but one in his early 40s, say. K-Stall is 62 and hasn’t coached in a handful of years. Those at Pitt would argue he hasn’t coached in a few more years, even.

Question from Other Andrew:

Somebody’s got to take the rap for what the non-incarcerated Tide did to us the other night, holy hell. I’ve been all out on this team/coach for awhile now. Presumably Van Breda Stack shooed Robbins up off the bench once we got down 40 or 50. You could’ve fired him at any point in the past few months and I would’ve been happy. I only wonder if we can do better. Can we? (best puppy dog look - I’m a teenage girl, mind)

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes, we can do better than losing to Alabama by 57 points.

Andrew VU ‘04: We can and have. Whereas football is often a massive investment of resources (before the good and legal 80s SMU style NIL era, even), hundred player rosters, creating bullshit majors and a massive tutoring house of cards to keep them eligible, etc., to succeed, shooty hoops needs 12 dudes, of whom like 7 can play, and 2 are really good. We’ve done it before. Hell, we might have had a Final Four run if the refs blew the whistle on Jeff Green’s travel. We can do it again. Many similarly strong academic schools have done it. No excuses there.

Question from Jared Rifkin:

I did some research and Kevin Stallings versus Jerry Stackhouse are very similar

Year 1 : improvement from previous coach

Year 2: more improvement

Year 3 NIT tournament

Years 4 trash year (Kevin stallings went 11-18)

Year 5 … sweet sixteen

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The difference, of course, is that Stallings should have made the tournament in his first year, and in the era before the transfer portal he could count on pretty much the entire roster from the 11-18 team returning the next season. He had a legitimately good player (Matt Freije) who he knew was coming back. I don’t think that’s going to be remotely comparable to the current situation.

Andrew VU ‘04: Agree with Tom. Further, who on the current roster looks likely to turn into a star? If I squint, I could see Ty Lawrence turning into a strong player, but, you know, Stack is trying his damndest to run him off the team...

Oh, and Stack actually had a damned star in SPJ, and could only make the NIT with him. You’re telling me peak-career Stallings couldn’t have recruited role players/system players within the 3 years of SPJ to make the Tourney? Please... he did it with Freije and Mario Moore, who combined were not the talent SPJ was.

Question from VU 1970:

Any recommendations on the best designer pitchfork brands?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I cannot recommend a designer pitchfork. Simply buy one at Wal-Mart.

Andrew VU ‘04: There’s Stab That Hay—that’s on 3rd. Pitch Perforkt—that’s on 3rd, too. Stab Low, Sweet Chariot. Also, 3rd. There’s Maryanne’s Pitchforks. The good thing about that one is Maryanne gets in the barn with you. Come to think of it, they’re all in the Pitchfork District on 3rd.