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Letter to Editor: To Pittsburgh Sports Fans, From a Coach’s Wife

View from Grand View Scenic Byway Park — of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania skyline, from Mount Washington. -- Bobak Ha'Eri | CC BY-SA 2.5

Letter to Editor: To Pittsburgh Sports Fans, From a Coach’s Wife

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pittsburgh Sports Now received the following unsigned letter from the wife of one of the former members of Pitt’s basketball staff. It is being published unedited.

“Could you live in Pittsburgh?” he asked me one day. “Pittsburgh?” I replied, “I love Pittsburgh.” I had visited multiple times for work and vividly remember standing in the banquet hall at Rivers Casino, overlooking the 3 Rivers and Heinz Field while on the phone with him as I declared “Pittsburgh is a cool town, I could live here.” Little did I know that one day, only a few years later, I would be.

Next thing I knew, we were driving through the Fort Pitt tunnel, him for the first time ever (yes, that’s right, he took the job sight unseen). I watched his face light up as we emerged to that breathtaking, first view of the city. He didn’t know anything about Pittsburgh aside from what I had told him, but he did know one thing: Pittsburgh is one of, if not the greatest sports town in America. And how could he not want to be a part of that?

This is a city where all 3 professional sports teams boast the same colors.
Black & Yellow.
No other city in America can say that.
This is a city with 6 Super Bowl titles.
No other city in the world can say that.
This is a city with back-to-back Stanley Cups.
THIS…is the City of Champions.

And though the accolades are many and great, the real champions of this town are the fans.

I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Pittsburgh sports fans are the biggest sports fans in the world as far as I’m concerned. Case in point: two years ago, when the Falcons played the Patriots in the Super Bowl, guess which city was ranked #1 in viewership for the game…HINT: it wasn’t Atlanta or any city in New England.

Within months of moving into our little Bloomfield home, we had people literally showing up at our door to give us Steelers gear. “You’re one of us now,” they proudly declared as they shoved a Terrible Towel in my face.

The overwhelming sense of community among Pittsburgh sports fans is one of the many things that make this city truly one-of-a-kind. We are strong when we are together. Ask anyone who has ever walked onto the North Shore wearing the opposing team’s colors. But with that power comes great responsibility.

Pittsburgh sports fans matter. Your voice matters, and it is a powerful voice. What you say, whether it’s to each other, on a message board, in the newspaper, on social media…it’s heard far and wide. And it grows, and it spreads. When that voice is used to build your team up, it does exactly that. When that voice is used to tear your team down, it does exactly that. Think about that for a minute. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to be frustrated. Nobody gets frustration more than a coach’s wife. I’m simply saying that your voice has the power to affect change, and what you choose to do with that power creates a butterfly effect, for better or for worse.

To every Pittsburgh sports fan out there who has used their voice to spread negativity, it is time to realize that the only thing standing in your way of achieving the greatness you so strongly desire for your city and your team…is yourself.

No great player is going to want to come to a place where it’s possible that his own fans will turn on him the second he makes a mistake.

No great coach is going to want to come to a place where he feels his job is in jeopardy the minute he starts losing.

The environment that’s been created here is such that, if you don’t achieve immediate success, you’re out. And here’s the reason that doesn’t work.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Great things take time to build. Some day, the Liberty Bridge will become fully functional again. And we can complain, and yell, and honk and be as frustrated as humanly possible that it’s not fixed RIGHT NOW, but you can’t rush progress. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to drive across a bridge that was rebuilt in a day.

Give more credit to the athletes and coaches in this town who show up every day and compete at the highest level regardless of what their record is or what you’re saying about them. Recognize the fact that they’ve spent the entire year in a foxhole together, growing along the way. There are more lessons to be learned in losing than in winning. Imagine how great we could be if we allowed our teams to learn these lessons and get better because of it.

There is a contingency of you out there who I would like to acknowledge without calling you by name. You know exactly who you are. I will never forget your loyalty and unwavering belief in us through thick and thin. I know how difficult and unpopular it is to be a positive voice in a sea of negativity. But it is because of YOU that, for a brief moment, we got to be a part of the incredible culture that is Pittsburgh athletics, and I will always cherish that. I am going to miss a lot: our charming neighborhood and incredible neighbors who brought us spaghetti and homemade wine when our house flooded the week we moved in; Pamela’s Diner; The Great Pierogi Race; everything from Little Italy Days to ice skating downtown on Christmas Eve.

I regret that we will never be given the chance to prove to you that we could’ve been exactly what you wanted all along. I never doubted that we would get there in time…if given the time.

Pittsburgh sports fans, give yourselves the chance to succeed. Understand the power of your words, and use it for good. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only ones standing in your way of ensuring that Pittsburgh remains the greatest sports town in America and the one and only City of Champions.

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Gary O'Shell
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Gary O'Shell

She makes strong, valid points….that sadly will be lost upon those who most need to hear them.

RyanF
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RyanF

A fair take. There is no excuse for the level of negativity and the personal animosity that too many have leveled against Stallings and his staff. There is no doubt that our own fan base has been a negative variable for a few years in determining the success or failure of this program. Although, I think that it should be allowed that sports talk radio and message boards catering to Pitt have a contingent of folks who claim to be Pitt fans who actually take great joy in feeding the negativity because they are in fact fans of rivals trolling… Read more »

Clark W Martineau
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Clark W Martineau

Trolls abound.

PITTBAND
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PITTBAND

Niters take great pleasure in trashing anything Pitt. Allegheny County may have more PS grads than anywhere else but there are only so many jobs at Mickey D’s in Centre County.

Ron
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Ron

I understand the feelings of the author of this letter. Unfortunately Pitt fans seem to have expectations that don’t always match reality. I think she also doesn’t see the big picture and exactly why the overwhelming negativity stems from. For a decade and a half this was one of the most successful programs in the country, and the admin. at Pitt vowed to continue and raise that success. The process and hiring of Coach Stallings was fairly or unfairly seen as far below the expectation of what Pitt’s admin sold the fan base. I do admire the effort and positive… Read more »

Big Green
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Big Green

Well said. Everyone wanted this to work, and every coach went to work every day looking to build a winner. Every player competed to win every night and represented the university and community as solid student athletes and citizens. The staff and players deserve considerable praise for these important accomplishments that included the highest GPA for Pitt basketball in history and leading the conference with 5 All Academic players. Winners all in this regard and most especially at this time in college basketball. True student athletes who balanced a game with real life and were successful where it counts most.… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

“To every Pittsburgh sports fan out there who has used their voice to spread negativity, it is time to realize that the only thing standing in your way of achieving the greatness you so strongly desire for your city and your team…is yourself.” I feel for this coach’s wife. I really do. All but legendary coaches see their jobs end in a firing, eventually. But it is ridiculous to say that Pitt fans were “standing in the way” of success for the basketball program. Pitt was the only Power 5 team to lose every one of its conference games. 0-19… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

Jim, go back and research the crap that those negative nanny’s were throwing at the guy who bolted for his Alma Mater,pray tell, where are all the great players Jamie recruited his last two years here. After all, they should still be part of the team. Remember all the tournament games he lost to the caputie tech schools or the early knock outs by those podunk U. schools.Pitt’s program was headed south before Coach Stallings got here and he was not even given a chance from the time he sat down for his first news conference.

Bill
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Bill

There is no question that she makes a great point. But it doesn’t undermine the fact that the head coach should have never been hired … echoed by the vast majority of entire basketball world, including fans, local and and national media alike. It’s not just Pittsburghers, it’s writers from CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports, Sporting News… you name it! I agree that Stallings is not the culprit, Barnes is. And if Pitt goes after someone from a legal point, it should be him. But the sad fact is the sooner we rid ourselves of the nightmare and move on, the… Read more »

michael
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michael

I don’t think it was Heather’s choice to make. Higher ups made that decission, I’m sure.

Eric A. Payne
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I am very sad to have witnessed this treatment of a person who tried to succeed, but was rejected because he wasn’t a popular hire. That was not the majority who voiced their displeasure, but it must have seemed like it to you. I always felt that this city was better than that. Best wishes to you and your family,and please don’t judge all of us on the harsh and insensitive words of a few.

Bill
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Bill

What you Stallings’ sympathizers refuse to realize is that he could have earned the respect of the fanbase but failed to do so. He had a veteran team to work with his first year, but his reputation for alienating players came front and center. Then this past season, the team never seemed to improve … a step forward the two back during the 0-19 run. Both seasons gave his detractors plenty to crow about. I’ll guarantee that if there were any signs of hope, people like me who didn’t like the hire but took a wait-and-see attitude, would think differently

Clark W Martineau
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Clark W Martineau

Agreed

JohnF
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JohnF

A great letter. I hope she realizes that there are also a lot of people who felt that the staff deserved one more season.

Tony Fratto
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Tony Fratto

I appreciate her appreciation for Pgh sports culture, but she has it backwards. This wasn’t a program on the rocks when Stallings arrived. The cupboard wasn’t bare — in fact, it included two top scorers and a kid now playing for Carolina, plus a highly recruited guard, and a kid Stallings recruited & played at Vandy! This was an extremely successful basketball program for 15 years before Stallings. I’ll give anyone the benefit of the doubt if they’re building, but not if they’re breaking. These guys broke a wonderful program. The next guys will need our support while they’re rebuilding.

michael
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Last year was a cba tryout at the most!

Mon Valley Jack
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Mon Valley Jack

For most of this season, I was in favor of giving Stallings another season but so many factors lately just made me change my mind. The attendance and booster support was not going to come back as long as Stallings was on the bench – he was never going to turn this around – the talent just was not there – even if the young guys on this team mature another year, maybe they win another 3-4 games. The incoming recruits and the St John’s transfer aren’t making this a 20 win team. Combine the empty seats / lack of… Read more »

pittband
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pittband

Ok, when do we run the PS grads/supporters out of town? Negativity, agree I wanted KS gone the moment he was announced. Barnes took us for fools. Oops, that didn’t fly. Jamie and I had a 5-minute conversation which centered on PS supporters and their negative impact on Pitt BB. Nothing is going to change until the Steelers PR department screws up. They can’t do anything wrong and only the Penguins can do anything right (only when they win Stanley Cups). So, what’s the solution? PS supporters and teh Steelers seem to be an impossible duo to beat. Times change… Read more »

pittband
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pittband

The coach’s wife didn’t do enough research or she would have learn the sports editor for both local papers are PS grads and that most of their writers are also from Happy Valley. Kind of hard to get a positive spin on Pitt with bias like that. Mike Vukovcan is the only sports writer/editor in the city who has a favorable bias toward my Alma mater and he has been up front with that from day one. The Steelers on the other hand, well the city loves a winner and after Chuck Noll was retained by Dan (over Art Senior’s… Read more »

Pat
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Pat

Wonderful letter which makes accurate points without contempt! Yes, Coach Stallings and his staff will not be given the opportunity to reap the rewards of their efforts. The team was a pleasure to watch, and the win/loss outcome is unimportant. What is important is the foundation the coaching staff provided for future growth, and, most importantly, the academic achievement earned by them. If one reads a bio of Coach Stallings on VandyU, you realize how great a coach and person he was to his players. Graduation and accademic rewards off the charts, and player development in kind. Yes, he inherited… Read more »

Saul Goodman
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Saul Goodman

“6 time superbowl champions” – AND – “Zero division 1 conference Wins” – NO other city can say that either

Another thing that was sight unseen for Kevin was an ACC victory this year.

Shawn
Guest
Shawn

This lady makes good points and i applaud her. The truth of this is the previous AD screwed this up. The hiring process was corrupt and after a coach like Dixon the hire needed to be a slam dunk and it wasn’t. KS and staff should’ve been given another yr but the fans are disgusted with the whole thing and a change had to happen. This was more a reflection on the last AD than anything IMO. I hope the next hire is someone that brings energy back to the program because this next coach won’t be 2 and done… Read more »

PITTBAND
Guest
PITTBAND

I hope here husband lands on his feet but he came to a place replacing a legend and that is never where you want to be. Krzyzewski’s successor will discover a similar problem.

ipass login
Guest

At least the hate wasn’t as pure as Murray State fans going deathly silent at seeing UK a 5 in Boise — followed by the literal sigh of relief when Murray wasn’t THAT 12 seed

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