Gone before the game ends

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

Ok, sports fans, file this one under "what were they thinking?"

In the newly revamped ABA, which in it's heyday boasted a coach named "Slick" and players named

"Fat" and "Moo" and then some guy named Dr. J., has once again found it's infamous red, white and blue basketball bouncing into the news.

The league, which has now become a feeder league for the NBA wannabe's and hopefuls proved that while the faces have changed, the over the top characters have never missed a beat.

Enter Sally Anthony, a vivacious young Pop singer with her own record label that is part owner of the Nashville Rhythm.

The Nashville Rhythm, it sounds more like a bad soap opera.

And folks the sad thing about it – the story, which is real – unfortunately, plays out like a soap opera.

Actually, to be honest, it plays out like a storyline brought directly to you from the WWE more than anything else.

A little back-story about the participants – last summer, Anthony sat next to Ashley McElhiney on a stage with the Rhythm logo draped behind her and announced her as the new coach of the team. It also made her the first female coach in the history of the ABA. She retained that title until Saturday night.

The Rhythm, who were in the middle of a back and forth struggle with the Kansas City team had to quickly turn their focus from basketball to a shouting match on the sidelines between the coach and the half owner.

"Everybody's terming it a 'sport soap opera,'" said Adam Sonn, a member of the Rhythm outside the team's locker room. "It's definitely holding up to that standard right now until something more definite comes out."

During the third quarter of Saturday's game against Kansas City, McElhiney chose to bench Sonn, who has a broken bone in his foot and play Matt Freije, the newly acquired Tennessee native. Freije also holds the scoring record at Vandy was recently released from the New Orleans Hornets and is reportedly playing for the Rhythm at $10,000 a game.

When McElhiney made this move to enter Freije, Anthony, according to reports marched down from her owner's box seat to publicly berate the coach and demand that she put an injured Sonn back into the game.

The coach, doing her job politely refused.

"Why Anthony would pull something like that is beyond me and it is embarrassing for all parties involved," said Sonn.

No kidding.

The event has turned a basic basketball game, which the Rhythm came back to win 110-109, into a media circus because of one owner's overzealousness and well, stupidity.

After the game, Anthony ventured into the locker room to let her team know that their coach had been fired and that if the team chose to support McElhiney that Anthony would fold the team. There's motivation to win right there.

"She's an owner. I giver her that, but she's not what she thinks she is," said Sonn.

The Rhythm were set to take the floor next weekend in Gleason, Tenn.

A more significant fact about that city, it's where McElhiney went to school.

That just proves that some people are too used to having their own way.

It's that simple.

Griffin Pritchard is the Sports Editor of the Greenville Advocate. He can be reached by phone at 382-3111 or via email, griffin.pritchard@greenvilleadvocate.com