Today, in part four, I present Coach Rice with an unexpected question about how he would recruit a superstar athlete to Vanderbilt who knew nothing about the program and may have a negative bias against Nashville and Tennessee. After you read his response, you will be happy he is recruiting for Vanderbilt and not for a rival school. Ponder this: his response to this question was immediate without even one second's pause.
VandyMania: Let's say I am a five-star, 6-07 swing man from a small western desert town. After the basketball recruiting service experts have seen me play and have evaluated me, their report says I have the inside skills of Elgin Baylor, the outside skills of Jerry West, the passing and defensive skills of Oscar Robertson, and the ball-handling skills of Bob Cousy.
In the classroom, I have a 4.0 GPA and 1500 SAT. One day after I retire from the NBA, I want to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. All the higher academic schools on the West Coast are recruiting me. Unfortunately for you, I don't know much about Vanderbilt, and I vision Nashville and Tennessee as the place the Beverly Hillbillies came from before they struck oil. How do you get me to visit Vandy, and once I make the visit, how do you close the deal?
King Rice: I'm not the head coach, so I won't be the one closing the deal. Coach Stallings is going to be the person when it is push come to shove that our kids want to come to play for.
What I would tell you if you are as good as all those guys is that you're probably going to come to school for just one year. With our academic situation, you would be able to come and get a great start at Vanderbilt. You would probably meet some people in school who will be running Fortune 500 companies one day because of their Vanderbilt education. I'm telling all the kids, we have the best of both worlds. We have a great academic reputation. We cannot help that you are out West, and we're in Nashville. Nashville is a great city. You can look up on any list of ranked cities, and Nashville is always rated highly on the lists. So, you'd be in a nice city, playing basketball in the league that just produced the national champs. If you come with us, we'll be able to put people around you for that year you'll be in school, and I think we'll be able to do great things.
My Take: I think Vanderbilt has landed a gem in the hiring of Coach King Rice. If you would have been there to hear how quickly and well-thought his response was to that surprise question, you would have no doubt believing he could face any recruiting challenge or out-of-leftfield question thrown at him by a recruit or his parents. Coach Rice is confident without being arrogant, and he just may be the one who helps Coach Stallings close the deal and land that superstar recruit that puts Vanderbilt basketball back on top in the Southeastern Conference.