Jerry Stackhouse hurts for Alabama basketball's tragedy: 'This game means nothing' | Estes
Jerry Stackhouse was genuinely hurting. We know because he talked about it.
Before the game with his Vanderbilt players.
After the game at his news conference, when he looked at a box score on the table in front of him and crumpled up the paper in his hand.
“This game means nothing,” Stackhouse said. “Nothing.”
If you didn’t know the tragic circumstances to which Stackhouse was referring, fourth-ranked Alabama’s 78-66 victory over Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium was a fun game. The crowd was jumping. Many of the locals turned out to watch Crimson Tide star Brandon Miller, a Nashville-area product who didn’t disappoint. He put on a show, scoring 30. He’s a great player on a very good Alabama team.
The memory of this night should have been about Miller's brilliance back home or even Vanderbilt's gritty fight without injured big man Liam Robbins.
But really, it wasn't about either. I'll just remember that wadded-up sheet of paper in Stackhouse's hand.
This was a fun game.
But indeed, it was just a game.
And what Alabama’s team has been dealing with the past few days is so horribly real.
A young lady named Jamea Jonae Harris, 23, was killed in a shooting late Saturday night in Tuscaloosa that resulted in Alabama basketball player Darius Miles – who has since been dismissed from the team -- being jailed and charged with capital murder.
The shooting took place near The Strip, a popular area of bars and restaurants adjacent to the University of Alabama campus. According to police, it was after a minor argument between parties.
This was a tragedy so stunning and so severe that it’s difficult to comprehend. Which made it difficult for anyone to focus solely on basketball at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night when weighed against the gravity of what the Crimson Tide’s program is experiencing amid a stellar season.
“I can't believe it,” Stackhouse said. “I mean, I can't fathom that they would have even played this game.”
College basketball is a closely connected world, given the long-held friendships between players who’ve competed for years at various levels and coaches who’ve built relationships and recruited them for years.
So when something terrible like this happens, it sweeps through the sport, impacting more than just one team or program.
Stackhouse brought it up with his team before the game, telling them to “be thankful that you have this opportunity to come out and compete.”
“This is a kid (in Miles) that we've gotten to know and competed against that probably has got a chance that will never happen for him again,” Stackhouse said. “… I'm so hurt for his family, that kid's family. That young lady's family didn't feel like they were going to be losing their loved ones tonight.
“And we're here with a basketball game.”
What else can you say?
Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at email@example.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.