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Thursday, October 16, 2008
Commentary by Joe Biddle, Tennessean Staff Writer, October 16, 2008
On the surface, Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry III stepped out of the box to hire former Lipscomb basketball star Philip Hutcheson as the school's athletics director.
Lowry could not have made a more popular choice, despite the fact Hutcheson has no previous experience in athletics administration.
I would argue Hutcheson has life experience that trumps anything he will encounter at Lipscomb.
After graduating as the leading all-time career scorer in college basketball, the NAIA All-American obtained a master's degree at Georgia.
Even though he was a 4.0 student, nothing prepared Hutcheson for what he would encounter with the Music City Jammers, a professional basketball team he played for in the mid-1980s. He also worked for the team in sales and marketing.
It's an indelible chapter in Hutcheson's life.
Three weeks after the Jammers announced their franchise, a second pro team announced it would also play in Nashville. The Nashville Stars were part of a league for players who stood 6-foot-4 or less.
Both would play home games in Municipal Auditorium. Neither would survive.
"They were playing sooner. They were 6-4 and under. They were playing in the Municipal Auditorium, terrible attendance. Everything about it wasn't very good," Hutcheson said. "Every time I went out on a sales call, I would start talking and they would say, 'Oh, yeah, you guys are 6-4 and under.' I would go, no, no, no and try to explain it."
Hutcheson could have written a book.
One day the Jammers got a call from a player's probation officer. "He asked us if we traded him or released him. He said, 'If you traded him, he's OK, but if you let him go, he's on work release and he doesn't have a job.' "
There was also the time the Jammers picked up a new teammate while their bus cut through Georgia in the middle of the night. It was Ozell Jones, a former Wichita State center.
"I opened my eyes from sleeping and there's a 6-11 guy in a full-length white leather trench coat, talking on one of those brick-sized cell phones. Literally, we picked him up off the side of the road," Hutcheson recalled. "After about the third time that he refused to stand for the national anthem, they let him go, too."
Paving the way
After getting the pro basketball lifestyle out of his blood, Hutcheson went to work in the family's paving business.
When Lipscomb was searching for an athletics director, Hutcheson's name was one that could not be ignored.
He can take the program to a higher level. He is homegrown with an infectious personality that exudes leadership.
Hutcheson plans to reach out to the over 14,000 Lipscomb alums in Middle Tennessee.
"Initially our strategy will be to work with key individuals to anchor this, and secondly is just build the army at the bottom," Hutcheson said. "We have a lot of people who, if just asked to be involved, would be involved."
He's looking for people who want to make a difference.
Joe Biddle's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Reach him at 615-239-8255 or email@example.com.