NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Ashley McElhiney is remaining as coach of the Nashville Rhythm, after the ABA team said Thursday that a co-owner didn’t have the authority to fire her.
“We understand any disappointment and anger our fans felt from the incident,” general manager Daniel Bucher said in a statement. “But we now ask them to please put this in context with the whole season and show their support for our coach and the team. The Rhythm needs our fans to help us finish the season successfully.”
McElhiney is the first female to coach a men’s professional basketball team.
Co-owner Sally Anthony fired McElhiney Saturday night during the third quarter of the Rhythm’s 110-109 victory over Kansas City after the coach ignored demands to bench a player. Security guards had to escort Anthony off the court.
Anthony is one of three owners of Nashville’s first-year American Basketball Association franchise. But her husband, Tony Bucher, is replacing her as the Rhythm’s chief executive officer.
Daniel Bucher declined to discuss his sister-in-law, who was taken to a hospital hours after the firing for mixing Xanax and alcohol, according to a relative on a tape of the 911 call. He said she would remain part of the ownership group but declined to comment further.
“She gave Ashley a great opportunity and every one of these players to play in the United States. We think that’s a very positive thing,” the general manager said.
McElhiney, 23, had no coaching experience when hired last May, but she has led the Rhythm to an 18-7 record.
“I am committed to moving forward with the Rhythm and ask our fans and the city of Nashville to continue to support our team,” McElhiney said Thursday.
The Rhythm are scheduled to play St. Louis on Saturday night in McElhiney’s hometown of Gleason. The game will be at her old high school, where the gym holds 1,450, which would be a good crowd for the ABA team.
Center Adam Sonn, sidelined with a broken foot, said Thursday’s decision came as a relief.
“I’m glad she’s back as the coach for sure,” Sonn said. “This is the best answer.”