Thursday, February 19, 2009

Once again, Bobby Johnson shows he's the right coach for Vanderbilt

At halftime of the Kentucky game Tuesday night, Bobby Johnson stood at center court with his team and the Music City Bowl trophy. Memorial Gym was packed and the place was going nuts. Johnson was holding the microphone and he was supposed to say something to pump up the crowd even more.

It was one of those moments when a coach can let his words get away from him. When a coach might decide to tell 15,000 of his closest friends something they should all keep just between them. (See: Lane Kiffin at any booster function.)

What would Woody Widenhofer have done in this situation? Now that's an interesting question. Woody once actually guaranteed his Commodores were going to a bowl. But that wasn't before the season — it was in the middle of the season... when his team was 1-5... and their next game was against Steve Spurrier's undefeated Florida Gators.

On Tuesday night, Johnson held the microphone and absorbed the scene. You could see him scrolling down a list of things he could say, like Arnold Schwarzenegger's computer brain in the Terminator.

• More wins next year? Delete.

• Victory over Tennessee? Delete.

• A bigger and better bowl? Delete.

• Hello, BCS? Delete.

• Highest graduation rate in America? Select and activate voice modulation software.

Yes, Johnson mentioned that his team has the highest graduation rate in America. Here's what else he said:

• The team was fantastic.

• His coaching staff was fantastic.

• The students are the best in the conference.

• The fans are tremendous.

And then he finished up with "It's great to be a Commodore!"

Coach Johnson gets it. Last season wasn't easy and the next one won't be any easier. For all those Vandy fans who would like to hear Bobby Johnson predict a BCS bowl for the team and, I don't know, a Heisman trophy for Jared Hawkins, wake up and smell the coffee.

Remember that last season we caught four of our five counterparts from the SEC East — Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky — in rebuilding seasons and we managed to upset half of them. (The fifth team, Florida, won the national championship.) Don't pencil in any of those as wins. From the West, we get sudden powerhouse Ole Miss and a talented Miss State squad coached by Florida's offensive coordinator, and we trade Auburn at home for LSU in Baton Rouge. On the non-conference side, we face an extremely dangerous Georgia Tech team, as well as bowl champions Rice in Houston.

We'll be lucky if we're favored to win four games next season.

So Bobby Johnson thanks everybody for last season, and knows it has nothing to do with next season. His team will still be projected near the bottom of the SEC cellar.

Doing things the right way is what got him and his team out there on center court Tuesday.

And he's not going to stop doing — and saying — things the right way.

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