NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 30) - Ashley McElhiney, the first female coach of a men's pro basketball team, was fired Saturday night after an on-court dispute with the co-owner of the Nashville Rhythm of the ABA.
Co-owner and CEO Sally Anthony was unhappy that McElhiney was playing Matt Freije after Anthony instructed that he be benched.
The argument over the former Vanderbilt star's playing time began during the third quarter and apparently escalated when Anthony attempted to remove McElhiney as coach during the team's 110-109 win over the Kansas City Knights. Anthony was eventually restrained by security guards and taken off the floor.
"I called my coach a couple of hours before the game and said, 'I don't want him playing,"' Anthony told The Tennessean after the game. "She ignored me. I walked onto the court and said I'm her boss and she needed to bench him."
McElhiney declined comment when reached at her home on Sunday by The Associated Press. The team is 17-7 so far this season under the 23-year-old, a former point guard for Vanderbilt who was taken in the third round of the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever but released before playing a game.
Rhythm forward Adam Sonn said he was shocked by the situation.
"It was something that shouldn't happen at any level of sports," Sonn told WKRN-TV of Nashville. "It's something that's sad to see."
Anthony, a singer who also has her own record label and a Web site promoting female artists, said she was just trying to protect her players.
"My co-owner and my GM decided to pay Matt Freije to have the name here," she said. "He came in for two games. Our players are struggling financially."
According to Anthony, Freije, Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer, was paid $10,000 to play two games for the Rhythm.
Anthony also had a message for members of her staff and players who might dispute her actions.
"If they're willing to stick their neck out for Ashley, and that would be dumb, I would fold the team right now," she said. "If I say no it should be no. She's done. She's fired."
Assistant coach Scott Flatt said in a statement the team still considers McElhiney its head coach.
"Sally was one of three owners acting alone. As far as we're concerned Ashley is the coach of the team right now."
The other owners listed on the Nashville Rhythm's Web site are Justin Christian and Tony Bucher.
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I'll have to contact my buddies back home to get the scoop on this.