Home / Sally and Ashley’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure

Sally and Ashley’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure

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Truly the most bizarre sports story of the year to date is what happened last Saturday night at Nashville’s Allen Arena.

Co-owner and CEO Sally Anthony of the ABA Nashville Rhythm attempted to fire her coach, Ashley McElhiney, during the third quarter of a game against the Kansas City Knights.

McElhiney, the first-ever female coach of a men’s pro basketball team, continued to play former Vanderbilt star Matt Freije after Anthony instructed that he be benched.

The argument began during the third quarter and escalated until Anthony came down to the bench with the game in progress and started screaming at Coach McElhiney to put Freije — Vanderbilt’s all-time leading scorer who had just been released by the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats — down on the pine.

The coach ignored Anthony’s order and the owner/CEO had to be restrained by security guards, finally being forcibly taken off the floor.

McElhiney continued coaching and her team won, 110-109.

After the game, Anthony insisted McElhiney had been fired, even though she had continued to coach.

It turned out that Anthony shares ownership of the team with two other people, who haven’t yet weighed in.

As a result, McElhiney’s status remains unknown, even to her.

After the game, Anthony addressed the team and gave them 24 hours to decide whether they would side with her or the coach.

But there’s more.

After the game, Anthony fell and hit her head: she was taken to the Vanderbilt University Hospital on Sunday morning.

She was asked about a 911 call related to the incident and said, “I was picked up last night. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Somewhere Marge Schott is smiling.

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  • RJ

    Sounds like a publicity stunt to me…

  • mbu

    I think Anthony fell off the crazy train!

  • Eric Olsen

    some people take ownership of sports teams a little too personally and seriously: it’s a freaking minor league basketball game, it’s just entertainment. When you hire people you have to let them do their job without undue and obvious interference. An owner of a team doesn’t dictate to a coach during a game on inter-game moves without completely screwing everything up (it took Steinbrenner about 20 years to learn this one).

  • Sally Anthony

    First of all, I have to say that I don’t usually read anything about myself…But, this was sent to me by a friend who didn’t know better. Ignorance is bliss when people are writing things about you without having ever met you.
    I was told not to speak to the press while all this stuff was going on. I was taken to a private location and no one even let me get on a computer or read a newspaper. All of our phone numbers were changed and I guess you could say I was in mourning. But, compared to the Aids Orphanage and Fistula Hospital I visited while in Africa recently, this drama now seems a little silly. I have clean water, food and shelter, so I can’t complain too much. On the other hand, if I come across something that is wrong, I can’t help but to respond.
    So…First of all, I never got involved in Ashley’s coaching. I felt she was hired to do a job and I was to let her do it. I didn’t know how much Chad F. was being paid until after the first of the two games he signed on for. I felt like it was a slap in the face to our full time players to pay him the amount of money he was getting paid for just two games. These guys had worked so hard all season long! I called Ashley several times prior to the (2nd) game that evening and asked her nicely to please bench Chad as a show of support for our players. I think I left 3 or 4 messages to no avail. I didn’t care about winning, money or publicity. This was about respect and loyalty to our team. She ignored my calls and was told by my partner (who is also my best friend and husband to this day) to do whatever. It was my call. She played him during the first half anyway. At half-time, I went back to ask her,respectfully, to bench Chad to show my loyalty to our real team players. I wasn’t even angry at her at this point. I gave her the benefit of the doubt by thinking that her cell was lost or wasn’t working, etc. I want to make it clear that I liked Chad and this had nothing to do with him in any way. She responded to my request with a few choice words, told me no and walked onto the court. I was angry. I had supported her, promoted her, hung out with her, bought her gifts, lent her my car and honestly, I thought we had become friends. In my mind, we had each other’s backs. I was sort of in shock considering all of our conversations about women supporting women and the two of us supporting each other. Unfortunately, I followed her to the bench and told her she was fired and to get off the court so that Scott Flatt (A.C.) could finish coaching the game. I wasn’t drinking or on any drugs as previously reported. I never cursed at her on the court or off it. I wouldn’t do that in front of children. I’m no saint, but I did have good intentions. I’d known Scott Flatt for 15 yrs. I’ve known our GM, Daniel, even longer, as he is my husband’s (who was my Rhythm Co-Owner/Partner) little brother. We were close then and we’re just as close now. I wasn’t the only one displeased with Ashley’s behavior. But, legally, we were screwed. I was never forced to resign or quit. At that point, I just didn’t want to have anything to do with Ashley. I pulled out on my own. I can’t speak for my husband, brother-in-law or two of our best friends (Partner/Assistant Coach), but I can say that from that point on, everyone’s passion appeared to be long gone. They were there for me and I did everything in my power to correct my mistakes for them. To this day, none of us speak to Ashley. And to clear one more thing up, I wasn’t carried off the court by security. Actually, my assistant talked me into handling the situation after the game, so I walked off the court with her. During the second half, I waited back there with the police/security and we were talking and laughing with each other. And for the record, they escorted Ashley out as well.
    I lost my temper and I admit that my actions were wrong. I should’ve handled this incident professionally and privately. I regret it. I know very little about the sports world. I really didn’t think about this being such a big deal. I certainly didn’t expect it to be news worthy. My goal from the beginning was to raise the glass ceiling for women in athletics and other area’s of business and entertainment. I am passionate about women reaching their potential. I make mistakes like everyone else. I’ll be the first to say I am far from perfect. Really far. I had no intention of hurting Ashley. I wanted to see her coach an NBA team someday. Ironically, I think that because I was her “female” boss, she didn’t listen to me. If one of my male partners had made that call, this wouldn’t be a story. She would’ve listened to the his (owner’s) request and no one would’ve been walking out onto any court. All coaches have to answer to someone. We all have to answer to someone. I hate that I hurt a cause I care so much about. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why Bobby Knight can choke players and use racial slurs, yet still be admired? What I did doesn’t even come close.
    I would love to live in a world that looked at a person based on who they are and not what they look like or whether they are a male or female. Sadly, we’re not even close.
    At a game earlier in the season, a little boy asked me if I was the Team Mascot and I now see that I was.
    Sincerely, Sally Anthony
    PS You do know that most entertainers don’t write their own bio/description on their website(s), right? At least I don’t.