Anthony doesn't know co-owners, GM's 'deal'

Updated: January 31, 2005, 5:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

After firing Ashley McElhiney on Saturday after an on-court dispute, Nashville Rhythm co-owner Sally Anthony told The Tennessean on Sunday that she acted on her own.

Ashley McElhiney
The Rhythm were 17-7 under the 23-year-old McElhiney this season.

Anthony said she still has not spoken to either of the team's other co-owners or to General Manager Daniel Bucher about the firing.

"They have not contacted me so I don't know what their deal is right now," Anthony told the paper.

According to Anthony, she has two equal partners in the ownership of the team.

One is her husband, Tony Bucher, and the other is Justin Christian.

Rhythm assistant coach Scott Flatt is waiting on a permanent resolution.

"I spent some time talking to Ashley, and we talked about her continuing on as coach if ownership changes its course of action, and I think she's willing to do that," Flatt said. "We're both waiting to hear from the general manager and owners as to where things are going from here."

Flatt said he believed a statement from the team would come today or tomorrow.

McElhiney, who was honored at halftime of the Vanderbilt women's game Sunday, declined to discuss the matter.

"We're still trying to work things out. I'm on the phone with my agent right now, McElhiney said.

The firing occured when Anthony was unhappy that McElhiney was playing Matt Freije after Anthony instructed that he be benched.

The argument over the former Vanderbilt star's playing time began during the third quarter and apparently escalated when Anthony attempted to remove McElhiney as coach during the team's 110-109 win over the Kansas City Knights. Anthony was eventually restrained by security guards and taken off the floor.

"I called my coach a couple of hours before the game and said 'I don't want him playing,' " Anthony told The Tennessean after the game. "She ignored me. I walked onto the court and said I'm her boss and she needed to bench him."

Anthony, a singer who also has her own record label and a Web site promoting female artists, said she was just trying to protect her players.

"My co-owner and my GM [Daniel Bucher] decided to pay Matt Freije to have the name here," she said. "He came in for two games. Our players are struggling financially.

"I had no idea [the Buchers] signed him. That was totally beyond my knowledge," Anthony told The City Paper of Nasheville. "I called Ashley [Saturday] and told her I didn't want him on the court."

That was contrary to what Daniel Bucher told The City Paper last week, when he stated, "Sally told us to sign Matt by whatever means we had to."

According to Anthony, Freije, Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer, was paid $10,000 to play two games for the Rhythm.

During Saturday's game, Anthony went into the locker room at halftime. "I told [McElhiney] again to get him off the court. And I told Matt that he wasn't worth the $10,000."

When Freije entered the game in the third quarter, Anthony stormed over to the team bench and, according to courtside observers, shouted at McElhiney, "I'm paying your [expletive] salary."

After the game, Anthony also got into a conflict with Jason Sonn -- the brother of injured Rhythm player Adam Sonn.

Anthony shoved Jason Sonn, 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 of Anthony.

Some time after the incident that night, Anthony ended up Vanderbilt hospital.

"I tripped on some stairs and hit my head last night," Anthony told The Tennessean. "Some people think that I did it on purpose, but I just tripped."

Anthony had a different story for The City Paper, claiming "a dog bit me and my back is really hurting."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.