Some random thoughts from me this morning on things involving the teams we cover here on PSN.
**As the Pitt basketball team goes through a difficult 2017-18 season, the top story involving the program is the future of head coach Kevin Stallings. Will he get another year to coach the Panthers? I’ve made my feelings known on the topic and they haven’t changed and I’ll just add this. If Heather Lyke and the Pitt administration decide to move on from Stallings, they better get it right or it could bury the Pitt basketball program for the forseeable future. Over the years, there are plenty of examples of football and basketball programs that go into extended periods of losing and never recover and in some cases, are still looking to dig out. If Lyke makes a change. it shouldn’t be in reaction to upset fans and she had better be sure she has a candidate lined up and ready to go. Shooting an airball on a coaching hiring could kill the Panther basketball program for a very long time.
**Who was the last Power Five program to give a head coach just two years? If Stallings is dismissed, this would be a total black eye on the Pitt administration.
**Congrats to Andy Toole and Robert Morris for already surpassing last year’s win total and for qualifying for the NEC Tournament for the 15th consecutive season. Keep in mind, Toole was able to do this with virtually a new roster from last year. If Toole can avoid anyone transferring, which has been a problem lately, the Colonials will have one of, if not the best team next year in the NEC. Let’s see what happens after the season.
**The Duquesne basketball team are becoming victims of the early and unexpected success they had to start the season. Keith Dambrot’s team was picked to finish last in the Atlantic-10 but became one of the best conference stories with their tremendous start. Heading into tonight’s game at St. Joe’s, Duquesne holds a record of 15-11 overall and 6-7 in conference. Fans need to not overreact to the last two weeks of losing and keep the glass half full philosophy. While the winning was nice and something Dukes fans haven’t been used to, the fact remains this roster was overproducing and are realistically a year away from being a true conference contender. Enjoy the remainder of the season and get ready for 2018-19 when the Dukes will be adding a handful of talented transfers and a nice recruiting class. The biggest thing to come out of this season is for the first time in a long time, Duquesne fans can finally say their basketball program is back.
**Getting back to the Pitt situation, I want to give credit to the entire Pitt coaching staff for one thing they’ve done. Last year, the “talk” was how Stallings was disliked by his players and not easy to play for. Despite going through this long losing streak, you haven’t heard any negative talk or complaints from this roster full of freshman. To have gone through this year and for the players to still be coachable, engaged and carrying positive attitudes is really incredible.
**Earlier this week, talented forward Brandon Stone announced his final four schools and it included both Pitt and Duquesne. The interesting part of this is that despite not having a spot in their 2018 recruiting class for him, I’m being told that won’t be an issue if Stone decides to pick either team. Stone would be a monster addition to either recruiting class and a huge story that one of the local teams fighting off major programs to land a major local prospect. When’s the last time that happened?
**Next Saturday, Pitt is scheduled to hold their annual Junior Day. I’m not sure what to make of this but to this point, I haven’t heard of many players scheduled to attend. Historically, this is a day that the program brings at least a handful of major targets in for the weekend. Not sure what’s going on this year.
**Other assistants might get more attention than him. but in my opinion, Tim Salem is one of the most underrated and best assistants on Pat Narduzzi’s coaching staff. He’s an incredible recruiter with contacts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and on the west coast.
**No doubt an off-season priority for Pitt—like it is every year—is to find a way to get more fans to Heinz Field. Here’s a suggestion for Heather Lyke and her staff: get the younger fans involved. I would create a section at Heinz Field for youth football groups/teams and would extend weekly invitations to multiple programs. Not only would this put football fans in the stands but it would also be an attempt of trying to create a younger fan base, another issue that faces Pitt athletics. Get them to come early and hopefully they’ll want to return.
**One other thought on Pitt football recruiting. As they start to build their Class of 2019, two positions that I think Narduzzi needs to land major talent at are: linebacker and defensive line. If Pitt is going to turn into a perennial Top 25 team, it needs to be led by the defense.
**In case you’re wondering, 196 days until Pitt’s season opener vs. Albany.