I feel bad for Kevin Stallings. I really do.
From the moment he was hired on March 27, 2016 as Pitt’s new basketball coach he’s been under fire from virtually everyone.
An unnamed, longtime member of the Pittsburgh media told me yesterday that he’s never ever witnessed anything like what’s happened with Stallings.
By that he meant a coach getting zero grace period from the fanbase and segments of the media.
From the minute he started, Stallings has been criticized.
I just don’t get it. Hey, you might be upset with the process or Scott Barnes but none of that has anything to do with Stallings.
It’s been ignored that Stallings has won 472 college basketball games. Instead he’s been treated like a JV coach.
Why such dislike?
Well that’s a two-part answer. 1) He’s not Jamie Dixon. 2) Because Pitt fans thought that when Dixon left that the school would be bringing in some huge name coach and were greatly disappointed with Stallings. Sorry but Sean Miller wasn’t leaving Arizona for Pitt.
The ironic part of the new-found love affair with Dixon is that a huge portion of the fan base that’s praising him now were the same ones that wanted Pitt to make a change because Dixon couldn’t get Pitt “to the next level.” They’ll never admit it but they wanted him gone.
Now that the basketball program has fell upon tough times Dixon is being remembered as John Wooden–which is laughable.
Here’s the truth. Very little of what’s going on now with Pitt can be blamed on Stallings. Instead the blame and negativity should go towards Dixon. Stallings inherited a mess and is now in the process of trying to build the program back up.
He knew what he was walking into when he accepted the job but instead of making excuses or blaming someone else, Stallings has taken the high road and just worked to fix things and most importantly improve the level of talent.
The roster on last year’s Pitt team was completely devoid of real talent. Stallings critics will cite that “he had Michael Young and Jamel Artis on his team.”
Were those two players talented? Of course they were. Young and Artis were also described by someone that’s covered Pitt for many years as two of the most selfish players he’s ever been around.
That might sound harsh but it’s true.
Following a media availability last year, here’s what an unnamed player on the team said when asked about Stallings and the negativity.
“The problem isn’t who we are playing for it is who we are playing with” — meaning Young and Artis were terrible leaders, selfish players, cared only about their stats and didn’t care about winning.
Taking that into account, and the fact that he was playing with a 7-8 player roster due to injuries, what did fans expect from Stallings last year?
Then following the season came the mass exodus of the roster. I think it was telling that aside from Cam Johnson, none of the players that transferred ended up at major programs, which speaks to the talent level that Dixon recruited his last few years.
Dixon is the best basketball coach in Pitt history but the truth is, he’d become stale at Pitt and his recruiting showed that. He wanted to leave Pitt and get a fresh start just as much as a large portion of fans wanted someone else behind the bench.
That’s all in the past now and for the betterment of the Pitt basketball program, I wish fans would stop with the Jamie Dixon references.
Stallings is the Panthers head coach now and Dixon isn’t coming back.
If you’re a fan of the Pitt basketball program, continually criticizing Stallings and not showing up for games isn’t going to make things better.
The Pete used to be one of the great home courts in college basketball and what we saw at Monday’s home opener was an embarrassment. The Pitt basketball team didn’t deserve that.
What sort of image are you creating for potential recruits when all they see and read is negativity? Do you think that’s going to attract talented players to the program?
Are you a fan and supporter of Pitt basketball?
If so, I’d suggest get back to being a fan and give Stallings and his staff a chance. How about giving him a couple of recruiting classes before you predetermine that he’s a failure and can’t win here.
John Calipari wouldn’t have won at Pitt either last year or this year. That’s a fact and you can’t criticize Stallings for not doing the same.
This year isn’t about win and losses. 2017-18 is about getting young players like Marcus Carr, Shamiel Stevenson, Parker Stewart and Terrell Brown experience and seeing if they can develop into above average players and parts of the future.
This year is about forming a nucleus that will hopefully turn Pitt into a winning program once again.
Stallings and his assistants are doing their best to recruit top end talent to add to this year’s roster but having to fight negativity from their own fans doesn’t help things.
The bottom line is you as fans will decide where you want to spend your money and who you’ll root for but if you’re a Pitt fan and want to see them do well, the approach that you’re currently taking isn’t a good one and won’t bring winning basketball back to The Pete.