As the 2017-18 Pitt basketball season winds down, the future of both Kevin Stallings and the entire program will be discussed and debated. Will Stallings and his staff be given another season or will Heather Lyke decide to make a change? This is a complicated issue so Pittsburgh Sports Now reached out to some respected national media members to get their opinion on this topic. First up, we talked with former Oklahoma State point guard and current basketball analyst for Fox Sports, Doug Gottlieb.
There’s no way to sugarcoat what’s going on at Pitt this season. With a record of 8-20 and 0-15 in the ACC, the program is on pace for the lowest win total since 1995 when they won just 10 games under Ralph Willard. The last time Pitt basketball won less than 8 games was back in 1976 under Tim Grgurich when they finished with a record of 6-21.
While the season has been dreadful, any objective person would admit that the results aren’t really unexpected.
Trying to compete in one of the best basketball conferences in the country with a roster comprised of mostly freshman and then losing your best player 10 games into the season is a recipe for disaster and that’s what we’ve witnessed.
The question now is what will Heather Lyke and the Pitt administration decide to do after the season? Give Stallings a third season and a second season to coach his recruits who should be better, plus adding Luther, Malik Ellison and incoming freshman? Or will Lyke decide that the program–considering the record, attendance and general fan malaise–needs a fresh start?
The other factor to take into consideration is that if Pitt decides to move on from Stallings, they’ll owe him a buyout of nearly $10 million. That obviously will play a role in the final decision.
Current Fox Sports broadcaster Doug Gottlieb has been around the game of basketball his entire life and is one of the leading voices in the country concerning the sport. Last night, Pittsburgh Sports Now had a lengthy and informative discussion to get his thoughts on the decision that’s ahead for Lyke and Pitt.
“There’s a lot to this decision,” Gottlieb explained. “Who are you going to go get? Once you decide who you’re going to go get, you better get him. If they decide to go this route, Pitt is going to have to overpay whoever they go after. They’ll have to spend $5 million to get anyone good, for the coach and his staff. Plus, if they make a change, they’ll have to strip the roster down again and will have another two years before they’re any good. If they decide to stick with Stallings, next year they’ll obviously be better and in two years, I think they’ll be fine.
“The thing about Kevin Stallings is that he’s not warm and fuzzy and the fans hate him. Pitt fans didn’t like Jamie but they hate Kevin.”
So, if Gottlieb was in charge, which direction would he lean?
“I’d say this, unless you can get Sean Miller, you wait to see what happens with the FBI and Sean, and if something bad goes down there, you wait till things cool down and you check his interest. But other than that, I don’t know, to pay a $10 million buyout to Stallings after giving him just two seasons, that’s a lot.”
“Hey, I understand, I completely understand how frustrated Pitt fans are because they’ve been a good program. But, this whole thing is also a by product of conference re-alignment and going to the ACC. Everyone just thought it was going to be great. I just think $10 million is just way too much money to be throwing around and the $10 million is in reality going to eventually turn into $15 million.”
There’s a school of thought that if Pitt fires Stallings after two years, it’s going to affect the way the job is perceived by future potential candidates. Gottlieb doesn’t think that holds a ton of water, except in one crucial area.
“Some people in college basketball media would call Pitt out but in the end, it’ll all depend on who the next hire would be,” he said. “They’ll all say it matters but it will only be a factor in terms of how much you’ll have to overpay for the next coach and in terms of length of deal. If this buyout is $10 million then the next coach might get a $20 million buyout. … Pitt will have to write out a big check to make him go away but they better hit a homerun with the next hire and throw 100 percent support behind a new candidate and give him more time.”
Gottlieb added that when Dixon left for TCU, the coach that Pitt should’ve targeted and offered that big check to was Archie Miller, who’s now at Indiana.
Stallings has been under fire from fans and some media since taking over for Jamie Dixon. In two seasons with the Panthers, Stallings is 24-37 but despite what’s going on, Gottlieb doesn’t look at Stallings the same way most fans do.
“I actually think Kevin Stallings is a really good basketball coach, but he didn’t ingratiate himself and things didn’t start well for him at Pitt,” Gottlieb said. “As far as this year, he had no chance with that roster and everyone knew that. You can’t win playing all freshman, nobody can.
“Once again, the thing with Kevin comes off rough and has a hard time getting people to feel good about the future, that’s just how he is. Once you get to know him and understand him, I think you buy into him. He’s a ball guy, he does things the right way, he’s not going to cheat and it will take time. I do think that Kevin’s way of doing things, if given time, would make Pitt competitive for a long period of time.”
Doug Gottlieb is the Host of the Doug Gottlieb Show on Fox Sports Radio Sirius XM Channel 83 – Basketball Analyst on FSI/Facebook/Westwood 1/Compass/The Athletic