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Players back female coach

ABA team co-owner Sally Anthony yells at coach Ashley McElhiney Saturday before firing her over the use of a former Vanderbilt star.

By Times wire
Published February 1, 2005


NASHVILLE - Adam Sonn and his Rhythm teammates want to keep Ashley McElhiney as their coach and hope the owners of the ABA franchise reverse a decision to fire the first female coach of a men's professional team.

Co-owner Sally Anthony walked onto the court during the third quarter of a game Saturday night and fired McElhiney after the coach refused to bench a player. Sonn, who has a broken foot, was sitting beside McElhiney on the bench at the time.

"Why (Anthony) would pull something like this is beyond me, and it was embarrassing for all parties involved," Sonn said Monday. "I just think that things are going to settle back down, and you know later this week things will get back to normal."

Anthony and her husband/co-owner Tony Bucher didn't return Associated Press messages left Monday. The team's third owner, Justin Christian, could not be reached for comment.

Anthony, a pop singer who has her own record label, helped the expansion Rhythm make a national splash in May with the hiring of McElhiney, then 22. Nashville is 18-7 under her.

Saturday's argument involved the playing time of Matt Freije, Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer who was signed last week after being released by the NBA's Hornets. Anthony wanted Freije, who made a reported $10,000 for two games, to be benched. McElhiney refused.

Assistant coach Scott Flatt had to help restrain Anthony, and security guards kept her away from the sideline.

Sonn gave McElhiney, who has declined to comment, credit for helping the Rhythm rebound from an 18-point deficit and beat Kansas City 110-109.

After the game, Anthony also shoved Jason Sonn, Adam's brother, used foul language and directed an inappropriate hand gesture toward him.

"She's delusional and she thinks she's bigger than she really is," Jason Sonn told the Tennessean .

Anthony later ended up at the Vanderbilt hospital. "I tripped on some stairs and hit my head last night," she told The Tennessean .