Dan Davis (Dan 72) was gracious enough to contribute this basketball piece for us to enjoy before the VT game this evening.
No learning on the job for this coach!
How we Pitt fans have gone on and on about Pitt being the place where assistant coaches come to learn how to be head coaches at other universities. Most recently Paul Chryst spent three years as an apprentice at Pitt. Before him there was Paul Hackett and Jamie Dixon. Now of course, we have Pat Narduzzi on the football side again. You all know that I’ve contended that the only way to learn how to be a head coach is to actually be one!
Well, now we have a head basketball coach in Kevin Stallings who needs NO learning on the job on how to be a head coach and make in-game decisions. He’s seen it all and dealt with almost every in-game situation possible.
Many of us Pitt folks were not Jamie Dixon fans. His over the top behavior of being four feet out onto the court during games, his puppet-like calling of every play and every pattern, his determining who’s to shoot and when, and his horrible use of time outs exasperated many of us. But worry no more.
No longer do we have a coach who doesn’t know to pull players off the line (Dixon against Butler) or set up a safety under the opposing net with 3 seconds left vs Nova in case there was a breakaway off a screen rub… and of course there was and of course it beat us.
The new Pitt HC Kevin Stallings has seen it all and coached in about every situation possible. He was born in Collinsville, Ill in 1960 and won 3 conference championships under legendary Coach Vergil Fletcher for Collinsville High. In his first year playing at Purdue, his team went to the NCAA Final 4 and then twice to the NIT under another legend Gene Keady. They made the Sweet Sixteen in 1988 and were ranked as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney.
Stallings got his bachelor’ degree from Purdue in business management and a Masters in Counseling (which as a former HS Basketball Coach I can tell you is very important!). In 1988 Stallings was hired as a coach by Roy Williams, who had just taken over Kansas after Larry Brown left. During the next five years the Jayhawks compiled a 138-38 record and advanced to the Final 4 twice.
In 1993 Stallings got his first head coaching job at Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference. Following success there he was hired as Vanderbilt’s head coach in 1999 replacing Jan Van Breda Kolff.
In 2002 Vandy had it’s first winning team with a 17-15 record and beat 11th ranked Kentucky to go to the NIT tournament. Then in 2004 Stallings led Vandy to a 23-10 record and the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA’s. A game of note that year was when Vandy trailed 3rd ranked NC State 67-56 with 3:45 to play and came back to pull off the upset.
After a couple more NIT years Vandy went 22-12 in 2006-2007, went to the Sweet Sixteen and Stallings was named SEC Coach of the Year. In 2009-10 Vandy had another great year, was seeded #4 in the NCAA’s and Stallings was again named SEC Coach of the Year… but was upset in the first round by Murray State.
Stalling’s 2011-12 team was his strongest ever. Made up of great outside shooting and a huge big man inside they defeated #1 Kentucky late in the regular season.
My impression of Stalling’s past teams was that they always had a couple of NBA worthy players but the secondary casts were never of the caliber to make up an elite NCAA team. He is a great offensive coach and a genius game day coach. The bottom line to all this is that as Kevin Stallings comes to Pitt he leaves his old school as the winningest coach in Vanderbilt history
So what the hell does all this mean for us curmudgeonly old men who have followed Pitt Basketball since the late 1960’s? A new coach for Pitt…it hasn’t happened much so the jury is out there. But we all recognize that new blood and a new offense is very much needed.
We need to understand up front that he’ll coach with Dixon’s recruits this first season at least….Ugh!! He inherits a Pitt squad of above average players with many playing out of position, but no NBA caliber players are on the roster as yet. Our schedule this year is the most brutal I’ve seen at Pitt and if he goes .500 in conference, and he may well do that, I think he should win the Coach of the Year award.
I didn’t like the way Stallings was hired and the bungled press conference soon afterward but I’ve listened to him talk, studied his offense and basketball philosophy, taken a measure of his first 100 plus days and like my favorite Sportswriter PG’s Paul Zeise says “I think you’re really going to like this guy! (deference to EMel and UPitt here).
Many Pitt fans wanted someone younger with more of an open mind as to BB offenses. I was one of those fans. But now and upon doing a bit more research I think he’s the perfect coach for Pitt!
And however he got here I ask my fellow fans and alums to give him a chance to show us what he’s made of when given a new cast of players and a new university to coach for!!
H2P – Dan 72
Note – here is the past record of Stallings at Vanderbilt. Use this link to be able to drill down.