VandyMania Interview: Jerry Southwood

VandyMania talked to former Commodore basketball star Jerry Southwood about the making of the video "50 Years of Memorial Magic". Southwood, who was captain of the 1966-67 team, also shared some of his favorite memories of playing for coach Roy Skinner.

VandyMania talked to former Commodore basketball star Jerry Southwood about the making of the video "50 Years of Memorial Magic." Southwood, who was captain of the 1966-67 team, helped raise money for the project and guided it through to completion. He is employed by the Nashville public relations firm of Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence, is active in the Nashville Vanderbilt Club and Treasurer of the Rebounders organization.


VandyMania: I just saw the video, "50 Years of Memorial Magic", and thought it was outstanding. Can you tell me a little about how it came to be made?

Southwood: Well, the Nashville Vanderbilt Club, of which I am Treasurer, has for several years had a tradition of honoring a past team or a member of the basketball community. The Club traditionally puts together a film clip or slide show for a luncheon that happens before a basketball game. So we were trying to decide which team to honor this year.

My friend and co-worker Pat Nolan, an alumnus and past president of the Nashville Vanderbilt Club-- and also an expert on Vanderbilt women's basketball-- pointed out that 2002 would be the 50th anniversary of Memorial Gym. So we decided to honor the 1952-53 team, which was the first team to play in the gym. We were talking and said, we really ought to do a slide show covering the last 50 years. And I opened my big mouth and said, "We ought to do a video."

Everyone said, that's a great idea, but where do you get the money for something like that? I said, "I don't know, but we can start asking."

I went to Coach Stallings, and he agreed to let the Rebounders fund a portion of it. I also went to Robert Earley in the Vanderbilt development office and asked if he would help fund it, and he said yes. So we had what you'd call the seed money. We went back to the committee, thinking we could probably sell 1,000 or so at $10 each to recover the cost.

Each committee member contacted his friends saying, "Look, we're going to do a video on Memorial Magic. What are your special memories and highlights?" Cindy Tibbs, Coach Stallings' secretary, sent out a letter to the Rebounders [former players] to send in their highlight films and special memories to me. I got out the media guides and circled every time we had beaten a number one team. Pat Nolan agreed to be the spokesperson, and to write the script.

We put together a list of games that we wanted to feature, and then we started looking for still pictures and films, and that was pretty time-consuming. Donna Johnson [of Alumni Development] went to the Vanderbilt archives. We got stuff out of annuals. Pat Nolan went to the Nashville archives, where the Tennessean and Banner had given all their old stuff years ago. He got well over 100 still pictures for us to use. The Nashville Public Library was great in helping us find pictures of the construction of the gym.

I work at Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence, a Nashville public relations firm. Once we selected a certain game to feature, we went downtown and got both the Tennessean and the Banner articles from the day of the game and the day after. We took that with the media guides, we went to Roy Neel [author of the book "Dynamite! 75 years of Vanderbilt Basketball"], and pooled all these resources and came up with a basic script.

We sent the script to June Stewart [longtime employee of the athletic department], and she gave us some positive feedback. Roy Skinner [men's coach from 1958-76] and lots of others read the script. Then Jimmy Chaffin, my co-worker at Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence, said we could get it produced.

It was a joy to do, but it took a lot of time. It was just a lot of people coming together, and contributing countless hours.

VM: Where did you find the film clips and videotapes you used?

Southwood: The athletic department had some, but a big portion of them came from the Vanderbilt special collections. We caught a break on a couple of things. Bobby Thym [all-SEC player, class of 1957] had a 16-millimeter film of the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game of 1956. We got that from him, and that was great. There's one radio clip on there of Larry Munson. There's a man locally named Ed Benson who was in the service back in the mid-60's. He had a friend who would tape the games on reel-to-reel and send them to him. Ed had kept these and had converted the Duke game into a cassette, so we borrowed part of that. Your number one source for Vanderbilt news, forums, and fan fun.

There are a lot of things I wish we could have put on there, but didn't. Joe Fisher, bless his heart, volunteered his time to do his part of it [narration]. Joe is going at a pretty good clip-- there's not a lot of pauses in between. One or two people have said that Joe went too fast! All I can say is, we're sorry, we just wanted to get in as many different games in as we could.

Some have said, why didn't you sell it for $20? We said no. From the beginning both the alumni office and Coach Stallings' office stressed that this needed to be something affordable, so that it would rekindle some interest in Vanderbilt basketball. Ten dollars is a very fair price. It cost about $18 to produce.

I had a man call me on Friday and order two. He just talked on and on about his wonderful memories of Vanderbilt basketball. I went to the home game last Wednesday night, and sold 80 videos. There were people walking by and saying, oh, I remember when you played here. People have been wonderful.

We certainly didn't want to exclude the women. We tried to give the women equal time, based on the length of the program, which is only 25 years opposed to 50 years. I think if you have some love of Vanderbilt athletics-- men's or women's basketball-- I think you'll enjoy it. I wish there were 15 or 20 more minutes of footage, but it would have been hard to do.

John Russell, who was a guard in the early 60's and coached me when I was a freshman, is good friends with Roy Blount, Jr. of Sports Illustrated magazine. We contacted them, and they were gracious enough to allow us to use some of their materials. Almost everybody we went to said yes, we'll help you.

One thing we found in doing this is that Vanderbilt's basketball history has not been preserved in a good way. The best example I can give you is this: the Athletic Department has no action photos of Jan Van Breda Kolff. None. They have some coaching pictures, and they have some head shots, but no action photos. The ones that we used in the video, we took from the annuals of 1971-73.

Pat went to Channel 5 and Channel 4 in Nashville to see if they had any old video footage, and nobody could come up with anything. When you go back to the middle 70's, a lot of that stuff has disappeared. There's been no emphasis on keeping it.

VandyMania: Talk about what it was like to play under Roy Skinner.

Southwood: Coach Skinner was just Coach Skinner. He was very low-profile, low-key type of individual, but was very successful, because I think he didn't try to make things too complicated.

Back in those days, life was a little simpler. Games were played on Saturday and Monday, and you didn't have to worry about traveling on Wednesdays, or games that start at 9:00 instead of 7:00. I'm not sure they let kids have as much fun today. You play a lot more games in the regular season. Gosh, today if you play in a pre-season tournament and go all the way in a post-season tournament, you could play 40 games. When I was in school in the middle 60's, I played 26, and it only took 4 games in the NCAA tournament, because basically you started off in the round of 16.

I've got great memories. I played two years with Clyde Lee. Bo Wyenandt was one year behind me. I was fortunate to play with nothing but, I think, the best kids that ever played there.

VM: What's your favorite memory of Memorial Gym from your playing career?

Southwood: Oh gosh. This may not be my best memory, but it's a funny memory. Coach Bob Knight was at Army at the time. He brought a good team in to play in the Vanderbilt Invitational Tournament. That was Clyde's senior year-- he had been an All-American the year before. So Coach Knight designs this great defense to stop Clyde Lee. And they were reasonably successful doing it. But I turned out to be the leading scorer that night, and we won.

What makes that so funny is that Coach Knight still remembers it. If you ask him about it to this day, he would tell you about it. My son went to Indiana University and was a manager for Coach Knight. Coach Knight related the story back to my son... in a fairly colorful manner!


The video "50 Years of Memorial Magic" is available for $10 at home games this season, or it can be ordered from the Vanderbilt alumni office. To order, call (615) 322-2929, or contact Jerry Southwood at (615) 383-1396. Top Stories