Coach Who Broke Gender Barrier Fired

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ashley McElhiney, the first female coach of a men’s pro basketball team, was fired Saturday night after an on-court dispute with the co-owner of the Nashville Rhythm of the American Basketball Assn.

Co-owner and Chief Executive Sally 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.”


McElhiney declined to comment when reached at her home. The team is 17-7 this season under the 23-year-old, a former point guard for Vanderbilt.

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

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

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


Anthony also had a message for members of her staff and players who might dispute her actions.

“If they’re willing to stick their neck out for Ashley, and that would be dumb, I would fold the team right now,” she said. “If I say no it should be no. She’s done. She’s fired.”

Assistant coach Scott Flatt said in a statement the team still considers McElhiney its coach.

“Sally was one of three owners acting alone. As far as we’re concerned Ashley is the coach of the team right now.”

Winter Sports

Anni Friesinger led a German sweep in the 3,000-meter race and Beorn Nijenhuis of the Netherlands took the 1,500 at a World Cup speedskating meet at Baselga di Pine, Italy.

Norway won the men’s pursuit in 3:52.53 seconds, beating the United States by 1.52 seconds. Poland was third.

Adam Malysz of Poland won the large hill ski-jump event at Zakopane, Poland, followed by overall World Cup leader Janne Ahonen of Finland.


Canada’s Pierre Lueders led his four-man bobsled team to a World Cup victory at St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Canada 2 sled had a two-run time of 2 minutes, 9.51 seconds.

Russian and German teams took second and third.


The first soccer player was implicated in Germany’s widening game-fixing scandal and prosecutors in Berlin charged three men arrested in the case with fraud.

A referee also was replaced for a first-division game Sunday after his name surfaced during the investigation. The German Soccer Federation called the move “purely precautionary” and said it did not suspect Juergen Jansen of fixing games.

Club President Wilfried Finke told Sportbild magazine his player was given money for Paderborn’s 4-2 German Cup upset of Bundesliga team Hamburger SV in August. He did not identify the player.

Star striker Hugo Rodallega scored the only goal to lift Colombia to a 1-0 victory over Brazil in the under-20 South American soccer tournament at Pereira, Colombia, and secure a spot for his team at the world youth championships later this year.

In Sunday’s other game, Argentina held Uruguay to a 0-0 draw.


Honduras defeated Mexico, 2-0, and Canada beat Jamaica, 1-0, in the CONCACAF under-20 competition to secure spots in this summer’s world youth championship.

The Columbus Crew acquired forward Ante Razov from the Chicago Fire in exchange for defender Tony Sanneh.

Razov was the Fire’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals.


Kenyan Gilbert Koech won the 39th Las Vegas International Marathon, while Ukrainian Olga Kovpotina won the women’s division.

A pair of NASCAR drivers, Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty, also finished the race.

Koech finished in 2 hours 13 minutes 44 seconds. Kovpotina finished in 2:31:53.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Waltrip finished in 3:56:52. Petty finished in 4:16:02.