When you think of former Vanderbilt basketball player Kevin Anglin (1990-93), a hard-working hustling Commodore comes to mind.
Anglin knew about winning before he put on a Commodore uniform as a Franklin High School player that made it to the TSSAA Triple-A semifinals as a junior (27.3 ppg) and state championship in his senior season (25.2 ppg). He was a First Team All-State and Honorable Mention All-American in high school.
"I'm been fortunate enough to be on two special teams, one of which was my senior year at Franklin and my senior year at Vanderbilt," Anglin said recently. "Looking back, I was part of teams that were one of the best both schools ever had. That particular year at Franklin we were 37-2 and state champions, but losing in the semifinals the previous year was a great jumping off point for that 1989 team.
"I'm not sure if we hadn't gotten there my senior year and won the state the next season. We had a group of players with the unselfishness, chemistry and camaraderie. We didn't just want to enjoy the tournament, we wanted to win it."
Vanderbilt was the only SEC school to recruit Anglin who would have attended Evansville if the Commodores had not been interested. Playing in one of the best conferences in the country with Vanderbilt's great academics, Anglin was also pleased to be playing so close to home.
After Anglin signed his letter of intent with the Commodores during the early signing period in November 1988 (Anglin's senior year), Vanderbilt's head coach C.M. Newton suddenly resigned to become the athletics director at his alma mater Kentucky. Eddie Fogler replaced Newton who had recruited Anglin.
"There was an uncertainty involved, but I felt like I had chosen the school as much as the coaching staff," Anglin said about the coaching change. "It was still a great academic school in the Southeastern Conference. That did not change. The good thing about having a new coach, everybody on the team got a fresh start. Everybody was going to be learning things from the beginning. The coaches had no preconceived notion about the players. I never wavered in terms of playing basketball at another college."
In Anglin's freshman season the Commodores were 21-14 (SEC, 7-11). He averaged 4.9 points per game and was second in team assists with 88. His effective play in the starting lineup the final 11 games of the season was a key factor in Vanderbilt's late season surge. Vanderbilt posted a 9-2 record with Anglin in the starting lineup. Anglin played in every game as a freshman.
"That was a roller coaster season," said Anglin. "We got off to a terrific start. We were something like 10-2 and 3-0 in the SEC. We played very well and won a huge road game at Alabama where Derrick Wilcox hit a shot at the buzzer. A lot of things went our way early then we had the middle of the season where nothing went our way. We lost seven in a row at one point. Several of those were one and two-point games determined by the last possession.
"We couldn't catch a break and lost our identity and confidence for a while. Then we had what players refer to as practice No. 74. Coach Fogler used to number our practice planning and it was our 74th practice of the year. It was a brutally intense practice. It was almost one of those practices where we just purged all of our frustrations that had been building over that time. After that practice, we made a change in the lineup but I think it had more to do with the group wanting to be done with the poor games.
"Shortly thereafter on Senior Night against Tennessee the dam burst. All the capabilities of that team came out. We beat Tennessee (98-74). We had a nice run and won nine out of the last 11. In the SEC Tournament we upset Georgia and we should have won the semifinal against Ole Miss. Gerald Glass made a couple of good plays for them."
The Commodores did finish strong, but were overlooked by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The NIT would invite Vanderbilt to its national tournament. Vanderbilt defeated Louisiana Tech, Tennessee and New Orleans in Memorial Gymnasium to propel the Commodores to the semifinal in New York.
Vanderbilt won over Penn State to move the Commodores into the championship game against Saint Louis in Madison Square Garden. In a close game, Vanderbilt defeated the Billikens 74-72 for their first-ever national tournament title.
"We were really excited to play in the NIT," said Anglin. "It was not the big tournament, but it was a national tournament where the semifinals and finals were played in one of the most famous sporting venues in Madison Square Garden. Most people believe that the NIT champion is the 65th best team in the country. At the end of our championship, I believe most people believed that we could beat a lot of the teams in the NCAA Tournament. That was a special time for our team and for me personally."
In Anglin's sophomore season the Commodores were 17-13 (SEC, 11-7). Vanderbilt made it to the NCAA National Tournament falling to Georgetown 70-60 in the first round. Anglin was named Third Team All-SEC by AP averaging 11.5 points per game while leading the team in assists (4.1 per game). He recorded a season high with 26 points in the win at Auburn and named SEC player of the week for Jan. 14-20.
Anglin was also awarded at the Vanderbilt postseason basketball banquet the Best Defensive Award and Hustle Award for the second consecutive year. He was also an SEC All-Academic and a nominee for Academic All-American.
"We had a very difficult schedule," said Anglin about his second year at Vanderbilt. "The SEC Tournament was at Memorial Gymnasium and we lost a great game with Georgia. They had about five games in a row that went literally to the last possession they won. We were 17-12 on Selection Sunday. We got into the tournament really on our strength of schedule. Our league record was good.
"We were not as good of a road team as we wanted to be. That was a very solid team and I have very positive memories of that team. For me, personally, I felt that was the year that I grew up a bit. I became this hustle defensive role guy as a freshman to somebody who was scoring points a fair amount and had some big games as a well-rounded player."
Big wins that season came over Tennessee (108-68), Kentucky (98-87) and Shaquille O'Neal's LSU Tigers (63-59). Anglin said that playing Tennessee and Kentucky were the big games to shoot for especially since the Wildcats were reseuging under Coach Rick Pitino. During Anglin's first two seasons the SEC played a round-robin schedule facing each team on a home and away basis. The SEC would expand to 12 teams the following year adding South Carolina and Arkansas.
In his junior year, Anglin became tri-captains with Todd Milholland and Bruce Elder. The 1991-92 Commodores were 15-15 (SEC, 6-10) and another NIT appearance (loss to Rhode Island in the first round).
"That was a transition year," Anglin said. "The year before we had two really good freshmen in Matt Maloney and John Amaechi who contributed a lot as freshmen. They both decided to transfer after that year. Yet on the flip side we had Billy McCaffrey and Chris Lawson who transferred in, but had to sit out a year. We were not up to the manpower as we expected.
"We depended on freshmen like Ronnie McMahan, Bryan Milburn, Malik Evans and Chris Woods. We were young and a little outgunned during the course of that year. It was a frustrating year. We weren't what we thought we could be, but we knew that we were going to be very good the next season.
"We could see at practice everyday that with Chris and Billy in the mix with the freshmen who were going to grow up. Bruce (Elder) and I were able to go back and play in position roles where we were more comfortable. We were excited about what we could be the next season."
At the conclusion of his junior year, Anglin lead the team in scoring (16.9 ppg), assists (3.8 ppg) and set a team single season record for most free throws made (155) which is now fifth best all-time. Anglin was MVP of the Music City Tournament and notched career highs in the New Hampshire game with 38 points and 11 rebounds. During one stretch of the season, Anglin set an SEC record at the time with 11 consecutive three-pointers in two combined games.
Anglin's senior season at Vanderbilt was all that he and the team hoped. They were 28-6 (a team record for wins in a season) (SEC, 14-2) and SEC champions. This would be Vanderbilt's third SEC championship and the last in the school's history. Anglin was co-captain with Elder.
"The players and the coaches had a sense that we were going to be very good," Anglin said. "Chris (Lawson) and Billy (McCaffrey) had been playing without the public seeing them, but we knew how good they had been in practices. We had veteran guys with Bruce and myself and Dan Hall who had been there for three years. We knew we had the pieces to certainly be a tournament team. We were very determined especially Bruce and I as captains. We didn't want to waste a practice or waste a game. It was very much like my senior year at Franklin with the great camaraderie and talent with depth and balance."
During this special year when the team was winning and gaining high national rankings and attention, how did the team keep its focus?
"I can remember a couple of times during practice Bruce and I would gather the group together when we weren't having a particularly good practice and try to spur the team forward," said Anglin. "I think in some respect Coach Fogler was more relaxed and more hands off during the previous years.
"I think we had earned his trust that we were going to play hard and that some of the inconsistencies in the past like poor road games were not going to repeat that year. There wasn't a lot new going on. We had the same drills, same approach, same philosophies and taking care of business each day. We got to the point where we trusted each other."
Vanderbilt beat LSU in the opening round of the SEC Tournament, but lost to LSU in the next round. During the NCAA run as SEC champions, Vanderbilt defeated Boise State (92-72), Illinois (95-68) and lost to Temple (67-59) in the Sweet Sixteen. Anglin said the team was disappointed that they did not advance into another round, but later realized of what they had accomplished that season was special.
Anglin was named Second Team All-SEC while averaging 10.7 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. He earned his fourth Hustle and Best Defensive Award being chosen again an Academic All-SEC.
Fogler came to Vanderbilt as coach who stressed defense as important as scoring. He also knew to win in the SEC you had to be successful on the road. So how tough of a coach was Fogler?
"He was very disciplined, but very organized and objective," said Anglin. "There was always a reason for what we trying to do. And there was always an expectation from us. He was always pushing us to strive on a possession-by-possession basis, game-by-game basis and practice-by-practice basis. There was more to him than what happened between the lines on the basketball court and winning games."
Fogler once said that Kevin Anglin was so valuable to his teams not just because of his attitude and hard work, but also that he could play three positions on the basketball court.
"If you asked me going into college where I would be playing, I would have said I was a No. 2 shooting guard at 6-foot-4," said Anglin. "I actually played very little at that position at Vanderbilt. In my freshman year we didn't really have a backup guard to Derrick Wilcox who was the starting point guard. We just didn't have another point guard.
"I remember after a practice Coach Fogler called me into his office about 10 days into practice. I wasn't sure if I was in trouble or if he was going to ask me to red shirt. He asked me if I would like to play point guard and, of course, I said I would. I knew it would give me the opportunity to play more. The first year I was a backup point guard and I played the No. 2 and No. 3 spot as the year progressed. And I started the last 11 games I played at the No. 3 spot, which is really a small forward position.
"My sophomore and junior years we didn't have a point guard. So I started at point guard where as a junior I was supposed to hand off to Maloney and hopefully I would slip over to the wing where I was more comfortable. But he transferred and I was point guard again. My senior year McCaffrey was the point guard and I was back to being the small forward."
Anglin said that in his four years at Vanderbilt the toughest opponents he had to face on the court were Allan Houston (Tennessee) who he knew for all four seasons; Litterial Green (Georgia); Latrell Sprewell and James Robinson (Alabama); Chris Jackson (LSU); Todd Day and Lee Mayberry (Arkansas); Jamal Mashburn, John Pelphrey, Sean Woods, Travis Ford and Rodrick Rhodes (Kentucky).
Anglin never seriously thought about playing professional basketball when he graduated from Vanderbilt. He did talk to a few agents, but when Fogler abruptly left Vanderbilt for South Carolina, new Commodore head coach Jan van Breda Kolff offered Anglin a coaching position on his staff where he stayed for one season. Today, Anglin is in his seventh year as head basketball coach at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy. One of his assistants is Ronnie McMahan, a former Vanderbilt teammate.
Anglin currently ranks 15th on the Vanderbilt all-time scoring list with 1,389 points. He also ranks fourth all-time in free throws made in a career (415); third in career assists (435) and fifth in career steals (192).
After all these accolades and recognitions, which accomplishment has made Anglin the most proud?
"The thing I am most proud is the accomplishment of the 1992-93 team," said Anglin. "It is a team game and playing is about your team being successful. I felt like I had a big part in helping what that team was. Obviously, there were a lot of guys that had a hand in that season. That is what I'm most proud of the accomplishments of that team.
"You can't say that team was the best that Vanderbilt ever had, but I'm sure most people will think it is certainly one of the best teams in Vanderbilt history. That is very gratifying to think about. From a personal standpoint the statistics are nice. The thing I'm most proud statistically is that I played in every game while I was at Vanderbilt and started 110 in a row and never missed a practice. I was there every day fighting the good fight."
If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com.