With dashing, gambling defenses that sometimes result in Commodores diving all over the floor, and several quick-draw patterns off the double post on offense, Skinner's team is an exciting one to watch. The coach, however, remains calm and collected. At 5'10" and 150 pounds he is an extraordinarily fragile-looking man. He sits with his cup of ice water exactly in the center of the Vanderbilt bench at all times—six men on the left, six on the right—and seldom stirs. "I sit in the middle so I can see everybody down both sides," he says. "I don't want to forget them. And I learned a long time ago that if I get excited and upset, I'll miss out on making some adjustments on the floor."
Vanderbilt's poise under fire seems a direct reflection of the personality of its leader, but anything more stoic than his present state would make Skinner nearly a dead man. Though he remains impassive, he suffers inside. The white chalkiness of Gelusil remains on his lips after most games. Following close contests—even winning ones—Skinner appears to have just fallen apart and, unlike Humpty Dumpty, been put back together again.
It is mandatory for Vanderbilt to play somewhat above its present peak in order to prevent the coach from collapsing completely. In their first five victories, the Commodores outscored only SMU from the floor. On the other hand, they have shot brilliantly from the foul line (exactly 80%) and have outrebounded their much taller opposition 221-217. Since Skinner has recruited a freshman team that is loaded with height and has beaten the much-publicized Western Kentucky frosh twice, Vanderbilt will stay near the top for years to come. But Skinner's concern is this season. Against Duke his bench was revealed as inadequate for the rough road ahead—two tournaments and the SEC race. Lockyear gave him two good performances, against North Carolina and Duke, and 6'9" Bob Bundy played well in the Davidson game. But beyond them, Skinner is weak in reserves. Still, his men play so intelligently that they may be able to get through the season without having to depend on the bench. Against Davidson, Hagan and Wyenandt both had four fouls after two minutes of the second half. They sat out only four minutes and were around at the end of the overtime—Wyenandt to set the screen, Hagan to score the winner.
Skinner got so excited over that one he almost spilled his ice water.