A Fan’s Take on Stallings

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.

Image result for Kevin StallingsThe 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.


33 thoughts on “A Fan’s Take on Stallings

  1. To be clear … I am a Jamie Dixon fan who recognize him as probably the best BB coach Pitt has ever had; he was certainly the most productive. Having said that, I believe the move to the ACC has hindered him greatly and I have no issue with him moving on. He was not a failure by any means. He’s a class act, and I wish him well at his alma mater.

    Further, considering the situation, there was no need to pull his players from the foul line against Butler. The game was tied with 2 seconds left and no need to have players back on defense since there would not have been time for a long pass and a shot … but an offensive rebound would have been tantamount. Further, he had 2 upperclassmen there for the rebound, JD cannot be blamed for what happened. I have more issue with the way the shot clock was run down in the last full possession with the ball in Gibbs’ hands.

    Like many here, I was not thrilled with Stallings’ hiring .. but he is our coach and deserves a chance to succeed. Not sure he has the personnel currently for what he likes to coach, but we’ll see.


  2. I’m warming up to him. Not a fan of the hire initially. Seems like he’s well respected and the current players are excited. Going 500 in the conference will be an accomplishment. I just want an up tempo play and to be entertained. Dixon took the fun out of Pitt basketball.


  3. Here is a thought. Stop bitching about the guy until the season is over. If their record sucks, go for it. I will be there with you but they haven’t played a game yet.

    I think a lot of people that post on here bitch every morning as soon as one foot hits the floor getting out of bed. I guess it is easier to tear someone down instead of support them. That non stop complaining irritates the shit out of me. Ask my first wife, LOL


  4. Dan: Nice article and I look forward to your thoughts during BB season. I too was disillusioned about his hiring and Barnes handling of the initial outcry. Stallings already has his hands filled with an apparent lack of hustle by his blue team in the first public scrimmage. Artis at point guard?” I hope that is more of Artis undeserved self-importance – I saw too many selfish drives down the lane and bad shots by Artis as he didn’t bother to look to see if there was a dish-off prior to his drive, saw him quit on his team two years in a row.
    Now Stallings has to deal with Sheldon Jeter and the kneel – while not many believe in the First Amendment more than I this is not the place to discuss the merits of the kneel. I can say it will not exactly be a smooth start. Like most Pitt fans I am willing to see what we’ve got in Stallings and wish him the best. Thanks again. Poncho or Pitt winter coat tonight? HAIL TO PITT!!!


  5. One thing that irked me about the Stallings hire was guys like UPitt (who I respect) who went crazy over the fact that we hired a guy with years and years of quality experience (as Dan72 pointed out).
    It is sad to me that our culture throws out people with great wisdom and experience and replaces them with young hot shots who often don’t know squat!
    Stallings has earned our respect at this point so let’s give it to him. Yes, you too UPitt. If after a reasonable amount of time he clearly is not cutting it as Pitts coach, we can begin the complaining and moaning, heck UPitt can even lead it! But to lead it before 1 second of basketball has been played is a little absurd, don’t you think? #H2P


  6. Nice preview Dan72. I think while we will be effective its going to be hard to gauge what the defense will look like w/ the avg. size of our starting 5. It’s going to be an average height taller than the tallest team in the NBA.


  7. Excellent job Dan.

    Pitt was picked to finish 12 out of 15 with 4 seniors.

    A year that we should have been very competitive.

    But no big man or experience at guard and we have fallen to the bottom of the ACC.

    I think we will be better than 12, but how much better.

    Duke has 4 of the top 15 players in the country coming in.

    Pitino says they are putting the scandal behind them, you know the one where his assistant spent $5400 on hookers over 3 1/2 years and Ricky knew nothing. Give me a break. Wonder what they paid McGee to disappear and keep his mouth shut?

    I still have season tickets but this is probably the last year.

    Dixon knew when to get out of Dodge.


  8. Dan… nice article. But the boy needs to recruit a capable big man. Now.

    He has shown he can recruit guards for Pitt… needs to get the big man.


  9. Whoo boy, lots of stuff right here to digest. The day the past AD left or kicked out, JD’s days ere numbered. Stale as a 5 day old loaf of bread. Then the hiring, each day a new name would be suspected and then another and each following days the names became less encouraging until PITT was left with Stallings. People were floored and very angry as was I. As the days followed I could see my initial reaction was not from who was hired but who wasn’t. I have always respected Jamie and wish him well but I think where PITT is headed is all for the good. Time to be patient……….ike


  10. Nice piece, Dan. I was a Dixon fan but it was time for a change. Jamie will be better for it and hopefully so will the Panthers.

    I Thought Stallings was an odd choice but I’m willing to give him a chance. If we’re not in the tournament in the next two or three years, and regularly thereafter, I’ll be looking for another change.

    Hail to Pitt!


  11. @Dan 72 – Dixon didn’t fail to rotate to the lane (Ashton Gibbs) or stay at home (Gary McGhee) on the shot that gave Butler the lead in 2011. Dixon didn’t miss the FT (Gilbert Brown) that led to the rebound foul. I assume that he also didn’t leave Nasir Robinson on the lane for a strip attempt on a clean rebound. Robinson was presumably there for a clean offensive rebound or tip. Something for which he had demonstrated serious ability to do.

    Also check the video for the Scottie Reynolds shot. Not sure what you believe you’ve seen. Reynolds slips Jermaine Dixon on a hook and ladder. Skates past Dejuan Blair at the FT circle. Gilbert Brown rotated to the middle of the lane with his hands up. Brown made no attempt to block the shot although he could clearly see it coming and had the length, athleticism and jumping ability to affect Reynolds. Dixon also didn’t tell Jermaine Dixon to dribble into an obvious half court trap with the lead and then foul on the resulting turnover. Also don’t think Dixon was responsible for 22-23 FT for Nova.

    In the end Dixon coached Pitt to two Big East regular season championships, two tournament championships, several tournament finals, their only #1 rankings and two NCAA #1 seeds. Stallings record can’t hold a candle to that in 17 years of comparatively bogus SEC play.

    On what basis do you make the assertion that Stallings is a genius game day coach? I am assuming straight up opinion because that’s all there is. He hadn’t made the NCAA tournament in four straight years and was trounced in a play-in game for year 5.

    IMO Dixon’s biggest problem was that he started to recruit better athletes but refused to modify his playing style to engage them. He also refused to adapt to the more up and down style of the ACC even though his players demonstrated some aptitude in doing so during non-conference play. His biggest recruiting failure is that he never put a consistent 3 point threat on the floor after Ashton Gibbs.

    Stallings challenge this year will be lack of backcourt experience. Chris Jones and Cam Johnson are the only experienced guys listed as guards returning from last year. Neither one has demonstrated an ability to handle the ball. I believe the Artis experiment will be a disaster but…

    Next year the challenge will be the absence of big men. Using scholarships on more young guards isn’t going to fix that. I believe that Pitt will have four guards under 6’3″ on scholarship next year if current roster and commits hold.


  12. Great article Dan72. We shall see early on when we play SMU and most certainly(#21) Maryland if Dixon was a really bad game coach (and I think he was) or Pitt is destined to always make the key critical boneheaded plays to lose in the most heartbreaking of manners.

    Stallings does have the best resume of any BBall Headcoach that Pitt EVER hired. And he is part of the Roy Boy Williams Huckleberry Hound Coaching Tree. So maybe that alone gets us a win in Chapel Hell !!!

    I just hope the bball season isn’t ruined with this blm national anthem protest bs.


  13. As UVa under Bennett has proven these past 3 years, you can play at a deliberate pace even in the ACC and be successful. UVa is the new Pitt of 5-10 years ago … great regular seasons, disappointing post-seasons.

    I don’t think Jamie committed to anything these past 2-3 years … drawn between trying to increase tempo versus the style he was so comfortable with. But he certainly missed getting the tough hard-nosed NY/NJ kids who would also play some defense.


  14. UVA fans will eventually tire of Bennett and his version of slogball as well. Unless somehow they make the breakthrough Pitt never could.

    The Cavs got to the Regional Final (Elite 8) last year and 2 years before that the Regional Semi-final (Sweet 16), so like Pitt fans were, they will be satisfied with that for a while, but eventually they won’t.

    Haven’t followed whether Bennett is recruiting any better rated players or not.


  15. Stallings got some ‘glowing words, from fellow ACC coaches.

    “He’s one of the greatest minds in the game,” Roy Williams said. “We still do some of the things in the zone offense I got from Kevin, wow, 23 years ago.”

    “That team they have now, I don’t care what the rankings say, is a top-20 team,” Rick Pitino said of Pitt. “That’s a great team in the making, and they needed a veteran coach to take them where they want to go and they got him.”

    “It was a great hire for Pitt,” ND’s Mike Brey said. “He’s really good, experienced and he’s coached in a great league. He only adds to coaching talent depth in this league.”

    Now it is all fluff. Who knows. But they did do Stallings a favor, by lowballing Pitt at 12th in the 15 team ACC.


  16. rkb
    That was funny!

    Stallings had to recruit two guards. Next years returning guards Clark, Wilson, Johnson will be juniors. Cam should be moved to forward at 6’8″. Milligan may be gone since he is a redshirt junior and won’t see much playing time. One guard could redshirt. Kithcart is the best ball handle and by far fastest guard.

    The rest of his recruits better be non-Dixon like big men.


  17. My understanding is the 6″11 Brown plays more like a small forward and can shoot from the perimeter ….. which is good when you have others who can hit the boards.


  18. Dan72 with the post(up)! Great article and well said. I now live here in Nashville and Stallings was well like by both community/school and players. I’m looking forward to see what he can do with Dixon’s team and then his own.

    Beat Tech!



  19. Yes…to all the naysayers….. it is MY opinion. See title. It’s a blog!

    Here’s another one of my opinions. If I was Stallings and it’s my first impression on Pitt fans, I tell Jeter and any other potential ” kneelers” in private ” go ahead . . Express your opinion, and I’ll express mine and keep you on the end of the bench! Pitt pays you to be here and I represent Pitt! Express your public opinion in some other way while you are representing Pitt!

    In public.. it’s all nicey nicey!


  20. This all should have got ‘nipped in the bud’ at Mizzou last year. Instead they caved and it’s spreading like a pandemic disease. One that effects these kids rational thinking. Sad.


  21. Good article Dan, and I for one am excited to see this new exciting era in Pitt basketball.

    If Dixon was still the coach I wouldn’t be interested much at all. It was like watching the Pirates. You knew they would be decent, but that they would under achieve and lose if they made the playoffs…..while being boring to watch.


  22. Bravo – nice job of ignoring the facts of coaching at Vanderbilt. Ever hear of academics? Or are you a Louisville fan where sports trump learning at any and every opportunity?


  23. Recruiting at Vandy ain’t easy. Winning at Vandy ain’t easy (although he really didn’t win anything).

    And I do think Pitt should have aimed higher.

    That said – this guy’s a pro. Safe hire. If he can get NBA talent to Vandy – he should be able to do it here. Although he’s not off to a good start.

    I think we’re heading for a stroll though the desert for a few years though. The seniors should be enough to sneak this team into the NCAAs this year…. But after that – there’s not much left in the tank. Cam is an ACC player. Luther holds his own at times as well… Can anyone else?


  24. Dan – Congrats on your article. Great Work!

    As you know, I think Stallings is a no name bum who didnt do shit in the SEC and should sell brissels.

    Big Head Barnes went cheap and tried to shine this up. Funny we paid a buyout for a guy they were firing. Only at Pitt.


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