When Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander dialed a high school prospect on Tuesday night to confirm a home visit for the following day, the player's dad warned him of a potentially awkward situation.
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Also scheduled to visit on Wednesday afternoon was the head coach of Lipscomb's biggest rival.
What happened next is a testament to the friendship and mutual respect between the coaching staffs at Belmont and Lipscomb. Instead of rescheduling the visit to avoid an uncomfortable handshake on a recruit's front porch, Alexander texted Belmont coach Rick Byrd and asked if he wanted to drive to Alabama together the next afternoon.
"He said, 'Sure, I'll pick you up,'" Alexander said Thursday morning with a chuckle. "It's kind of strange, but it's one of those things where as soon we get there, we're going to sit together and talk. Why not ride down together? We're always looking for a chance to have breakfast or eat lunch. Let's take advantage of the time to catch up on the way down and the way back."
You probably won't see John Calipari and Rick Pitino or Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski sharing the same car or charter jet with one-another, but the bond between Alexander and Byrd cannot be fractured by a historic city rivalry.
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Alexander spent nearly 20 years being mentored by Byrd, first as a player from 1992-95 and later as a graduate assistant, assistant coach and associate head coach from 1995-2011. They've remained close even after Alexander branched out on his own, accepting Stetson's head coaching job two years ago before returning to his native Tennessee to coach at Lipscomb this past spring.
The weirdest part of Wednesday's car ride for Alexander and Byrd wasn't that two rival coaches were driving together to see the same recruit. It was having to wait outside while the other coach made his pitch.
"That was the only awkward part because we've been on so many recruiting trips together as part of the same staff," Alexander said. "We just didn't approach the elephant in the room and had more personal conversation than anything else.
There's a limit to the friendship, of course. Alexander won't call Byrd to tip him off to a player the Lipscomb staff is recruiting, nor would he expect anyone at Belmont to do the same for him.
But given that Belmont and Lipscomb are separated by a mere 2.3 miles and that the staffs have similar philosophies, it's likely Alexander and Byrd will spar for same recruit again. And if Alexander finds out Byrd is visiting a prospect on the same day as him again, he says he won't hesitate to offer his friend a ride.
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"Neither one of us are going to call each other up and say I'm going to so-and-so, but if we know we're going to the same place, yeah, who cares?" Alexander said. "It's something we're going to experience more and more often because we're looking for so many of the same things."
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