One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for March 16, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
Yesterday the NCAA announced the field that will participate in the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. One of the teams that will participate in March Madness is Belmont University out of Nashville, TN. Belmont’s Head Coach is Rick Byrd a friend that I met in the 1980’s.
Rick was a young assistant coach like me in 1980. He was just hired at Tennessee Tech and I was at Western Carolina University. After three years at Tennessee Tech he got hired at Lincoln Memorial University as Head Coach and in 1986 he left LMU for Belmont University in Nashville, TN. At Lincoln Memorial University, he posted a three-year record of 69-28, Byrd was chosen as NAIA District 24 Coach of the Year and Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference Coach of the Year twice. He led Belmont thru a transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I. Not many coaches survive that transition but Rick did.
Rick’s is one of the best college basketball coaches in the country. His overall coaching record is 711-366 in 34 years as a Head Coach. One of those 711 wins came against my Winthrop University team in the 1990’s. Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs to win 26 or more games each of the past four seasons, joining the select company of Duke, Florida, Syracuse, VCU, and Wichita State.
This past year with Belmont’s victory over Indiana State on November 14, Byrd passed legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden in career victories. The guy is a winner. On Friday March 20, 2015 at 2:10 p.m. in Charlotte, NC his Belmont Bruins will be seeded #15 and take on the University of Virginia the #2 Seed. Look for this to be a very good game.
We lost that game 72-58 in early January 1998 right after the New Year’s Weekend on a cold icy evening. We played the game in Belmont’s old basketball facility before they got the Curb Event Center in 2003. I am not exaggerating in saying there was less than 75 people at the game. Of those 75 people there were some celebrities. Randy Weil who at the time was the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University was in attendance with his wife. Randy was a former player and Assistant Coach for Dean Smith at University of North Carolina. Also at the game were Vince Gill and Amy Grant. The two of them were sitting behind the Belmont Bench. I knew Rick was friends with Vince but I wasn’t sure who Amy Grant was.
When you are from Tennessee and live in Nashville you better like country music. Thankfully for Rick his best friend happens to be Vince Gill. In addition to Vince Rick is also friends with Vanderbilt’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings and Vince is sort of the third wheel in that coaching relationship. Link at end of post about that.
The Friend-RICK BYRD
The Friend of the Friend-VINCE GILL
First photo Rick and Vince
Second Photo-Vince and wife Amy Grant
Golf connects two Nashville guys with different careers
Vince Gill was playing in a golf tournament in Nashville in 1988 when he met Rick Byrd. They got to talking and Rick told me Vince he was the head coach for a small team at Belmont University . Vince said Rick told him if he ever wanted to come to any games to just let him know, and Vince Gill did. Now he goes to all the games he can make it to. At the end of the day, it’s a testament to a great friendship. Vince Gill will tell you he doesn’t have a better friend than Ricky Byrd.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, Vince Gill has become one of the best known names in country music. With more than 26 million albums sold, he has earned 18 CMA Awards, including Entertainer of the Year in 1993 and 1994. He is tied for having won the most CMA Male Vocalist Awards (five), and is currently third for accumulating the most CMA Awards in history. Gill is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has received 20 Grammy Awards to date, the most of any male Country artist. Besides being known for his talent as a performer, musician and songwriter, Gill is regarded as one of Country Music’s best known humanitarians, participating in hundreds of charitable events throughout his career.
One of those humanitarian causes has been Belmont University. Vince Gill for that support to Belmont University was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University.
At that ceremony he was quoted as saying
“I met Rick on a golf course. I was making records at that point but couldn’t prove it because no one owned them. He was coaching basketball, but he couldn’t prove it then because no one came to the games. It’s easily been one of the best friendships I ever had”
I think when the game starts on Friday against Virginia that there will be more than 75 people in the stands and if you look real close just behind the Bruins bench I am sure you will see Rick’s good friend Vince Gill.
Some good links about Rick and Vince friendship are below: