No Vanderbilt fan will ever forget what happened next. The NCAA selection committee mysteriously overlooked the Commodores, despite a preponderance of evidence suggesting they should have been included. The three seniors on that team, Dan Langhi, Atiba Prater and Strong, were deprived of an opportunity they felt strongly they had earned.
After graduation, Strong was hired by Stallings as Director of Video Operations. He accompanied the team to Atlanta this week, and in addition to being in charge of helping provide tapes and videos of the possible competition, he served as the voice of reason. Vanderbilt came to Atlanta on Wednesday 19-8, not entirely sure whether an NCAA invitation was a lock.
It would take a lot more than Craig Thompson to keep Vanderbilt out of the tournament this season-- the Commodores cemented their bid with wins over Ole Miss on Thursday and No. 4 Mississippi State on Friday. But "The Snub" of 2000 is something that Strong still remembers vividly. He shared his memories of that event this week in this VandyMania interview.
VandyMania: As Director of Video Operations, when you come to an event like the SEC Tournament, how do you prepare for playing a possible four games in four days, not knowing whom you will play next? Did you bring along tapes of all those teams?
James Strong: Oh, yeah. You have to try to look ahead. We brought along tapes of all our possible opponents. You bring along tapes of our games that we've played in the past. We've got about 30 or 40 tapes over in the hotel. We have about eight VCR's set up over there.
VandyMania: Four years ago you were here in the Georgia Dome. You won your first game here and lost in the second. You went home thinking you were definitely in. What do you remember about that weekend?
James Strong: It was definitely a disappointing experience. The situations may have been similar to this year but... Arkansas kind of got on a run in the tournament, and just like that, they took our bid. It was just one of those things. It was definitely one of the most disappointing things in my college career. Unfortunately they weren't taking seven teams from the SEC back then. I think we would have been the sixth team from the SEC to get in, but Arkansas got on a roll.
VandyMania: How does what happened four years ago affect the way you look at the committee's selections this year?
James Strong: Because of what happened my senior year, I don't speculate or anything like that. I'm not looking at any Bracketology, anything like that! We just need to win our next game. If we keep winning, everything takes care of itself.