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Player calls episode 'embarrassing', 'ridiculous'

1/31/2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Adam Sonn and his Nashville 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."

The firing has been national news, and Sonn even received an
e-mail from a friend touring in Japan who read about it on the
Internet.

"Everybody's terming it a sports soap opera," Sonn said.
"It's pretty much holding up to that standard right now until
something more definite comes out, which should be in the next day
or two."

Anthony and her husband, and co-owner, Tony Bucher didn't return
messages left Monday By The Associated Press. Rhythm general
manager Daniel Bucher, Anthony's brother-in-law, also didn't return
multiple messages. 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 last May with the hiring of
McElhiney, then 22. Nashville is 18-7 under McElhiney.

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 New Orleans Hornets. Anthony wanted
Freije, who made a reported $10,000 for two games, to be benched.
McElhiney refused. That's when Anthony fired her.

Assistant coach Scott Flatt had to help restrain Anthony, and
security guards eventually kept Anthony from returning to the
sideline. Guards escorted her from the building after the game.

"I can't explain it," Sonn said. "I've never seen anything
like that. For someone to storm on the court while the game is on
and threaten to take Ashley out of there, it's just ridiculous."

He gave McElhiney credit for helping the Rhythm rebound from an
18-point deficit in that game and beat Kansas City 110-109.

"That just shows greatness on her and just a testament to her -- how well and classy she handled the situation," Sonn said.

After the game, Anthony went into the locker room and told the
Rhythm she had fired McElhiney and they could support her or
Anthony would fold the expansion team.

"She's an owner. I give her that, and she's the face of
ownership. But she's not what she thinks she is," Sonn said.

McElhiney has declined to comment. She received a standing
ovation Sunday when she appeared at Vanderbilt women's game.

The Rhythm are scheduled to play Saint Louis on Saturday night
in McElhiney's old high school gym in Gleason, Tenn.