The Biggest Loser In the VY Drama


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After last night's big announcement, the Nashville sports glitterati and hoi polloi alike wrung their hands and got the cerebral hamster wheels a-spinning.

What would be next for the Titans? Maybe the team will trade for Kyle Orton or Kevin Kolb or Matt Leinart or grab Cleo Lemon from the Toronto Argonauts or coax Jeff George out of retirement and "Hey, I know George Blanda just died, but I think Dan Pastorini is still living" or maybe they'll go to the draft and take a gamble on Ryan Mallet or hope and pray that Andrew Luck falls to eight.

And what about the coach? Will Fisher stay or go? Would Nashville be OK with Brian Billick or Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy? Maybe Marty Mornhinweg and his 5-27 all time record would be a good fit. Could we trade Vanderbilt to Palo Alto, Cali. for the rights to Luck and Jim Harbaugh?

That's all well and good, folks, but something that, in a just world, would have led the sports page on a normal January Thursday is lost in the shuffle.

With a 70-53 win over the Stetson Hatters (of course Stetson is the Hatters) last night in lovely DeLand, Fla., Belmont men's basketball coach Rick Byrd won his 500th game for the Bruins ( Rebels). In doing so, he became just the fifth active coach to win 500 games with the same school, joining luminaries like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, as well as Sacred Heart's Dave Bike, who is sort of the Rick Byrd of New England.

Byrd, as he tends to do, downplayed his success, both beforehand to Jerome Boettcher in the City Paper and afterward to The Tennessean's Mike Organ.

For a quarter century, Byrd and his sweater vests have survived on The Boulevard, despite all the challenges that come from recruiting to a small school - one whose biggest rival on and off the court is just down the street - and making a mostly seamless move from NAIA powerhouse to NCAA Division I mid-major gadfly (almost gadflying their way to a first round upset of Duke in the tournament a few years back and giving the fellas from Knoxville all they wanted a few weeks back).

Byrd has another milestone in his steely sights - 600 overall wins (he started his career at 24 coaching at Maryville and then took a job at Lincoln Memorial before coming to Belmont in 1986). He'd be the 59th coach to hit 600 all-time men's college basketball wins. The earliest he could reach it is January 28 against Florida Gulf Coast at what is, for now, still called the Curb Event Center.

Byrd's well respected around the college game and God knows Belmont sports needs some positive news. So, Bud, if you're going to do something like make a trade for a quarterback or hire a new coach - let Rick get to 600 first and have his day on the top of the sports page.

Even though he wants to eschew the spotlight, he deserves it.


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