Irate that guard Wade Baldwin had clapped in the face of an opponent just after time expired Thursday night, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings yanked the freshman out of the postgame handshake line and berated him for showing such poor sportsmanship.
Stallings' message was spot-on. The way he worded it could have been better.
TV microphones picked up Stallings profanely screaming at Baldwin "[expletive] apologize!" "don't do that!" and "I'll [expletive] kill you" after Vanderbilt's 73-65 victory at Tennessee. Stallings reiterated his disappointment in Baldwin in calmer fashion during his postgame news conference before quickly issuing a statement soon afterward apologizing profusely for what he said on the floor.
"After the game, an incident occurred in which I need to apologize for," the statement from Stallings read. "One of our players acted inappropriately and violated what we believe is good sportsmanship following the game. In my haste to resolve the situation, I made a very inappropriate comment. While obviously it was not meant literally, it was still inappropriate. I apologized to the player immediately following the game, although displaying good sportsmanship is of the highest priority in our program."
While it's fair to wonder if Stallings would have been so quick to apologize had his words not made it onto the TV broadcast, it's also difficult to be too hard on him here.
He crossed the line telling Baldwin he'd kill him in the heat of the moment, but coaches have said far worse things than that behind closed doors. Furthermore, does anyone really believe Baldwin took Stallings seriously at the time, even if that doesn't excuse the coach's choice of words?
That Baldwin was the player involved in the incident is no surprise because he had engaged in some verbal sparring with Tennesee players already this season.
Following the Vols' overtime win at Vanderbilt earlier this month, Tennessee's Josh Richardson claimed his team emerged with a victory because it was "a little bit tougher." Baldwin told the Nashville Tennesseean this week that he took offense to that comment.
"To call us punks and [say] they out-physicaled us — from an opposing player, you are not supposed to be treating people like that after a game," Baldwin said. "You should show some sort of respect for your opponent, especially since you have to play them again. That comment that he made really offended me, offended Coach Stallings, and I think offended a lot of kids on my team."
Clapping in Tennessee forward Armani Moore's face was a foolish way for Baldwin to get revenge. Stallings was correct to deliver that message even if his choice of words wasn't ideal.
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