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April 13, 2017

Awkward Holding Pattern

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting,Transfer — Chas @ 7:37 am

Sorry about the gap in posting. As usual, I put off doing the taxes until the final week. And naturally, that coincided with a crunch week of 12-hour work days.

There’s not much to really write about what is happening in Pitt basketball at the moment. Pitt is pursuing transfers — grad and regular — visits are on the table. Yet, it doesn’t seem like anything is happening. Even as it also feels like a period of total chaos and a desperate need for something. Anything to happen.

The team for next year will not have one returning starter. A recruiting class that is sevendeep, and it still isn’t enough. There are still rumors of at least one more possible transfer out of the program. I mean, at least it isn’t Memphis, but this is still a mess (or as Pat Forde put it as an aside in a column about this year’s coaching hire — “blooming disaster”).

As a further aside, how does Pitt not get matched up with Memphis in the Veterans Classic to tipoff the 2017-18 season? Sure, they get the headline game with host, Navy. I don’t care. It would have been perfect. The retread coaches, with fans of both teams trying to learn to recognize the players on their own team in the “Who Are These Guys” Classic. Frankly, Pitt and Memphis have to play a game this season. Start the home-and-home. Make it happen.

Back to the subject (sort of) at hand. It should be noted, that I don’t think Pitt’s recruiting class — primarily focusing on the incoming freshmen of the group — is bad. It looks better then decent. At the same time, it isn’t leaps and bounds above what Pitt was doing pre-Stallings — at least as far as how the recruiting sites ranked the kids. The bigger problem is that there isn’t much time to let the kids learn and work their way into the starting line-up. Let alone the rotation.

This class is going to be thrown out there, in the toughest, deepest basketball conference. I hope that they are better then the floor (Boston College), but I’m honestly not sure.

A nice infodump article on transfers/player dismissal history of Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt. For the most part, his time there was rather stable — or at least about average — in comparison to most major conference basketball programs.

In other ACC-related news. After Arkansas slow walked back its attempt to dive into bullet-ridden madness by allowing guns at college sporting venues, the North Carolina legislature is giving it all she’s got to portray itself as the dumbest, hickest, reactionary group.

You have the legislator who compared President Lincoln to Hitler as a kind of solo, warm-up act. The special stupidity is the waste-of-time, grandstanding bill introduced to pull UNC and NC State out of the ACC if the ACC boycotts or pulls tournaments from the state. As recently happened in the wake of NC’s HB2 (bathroom bill).

I’ve always been supportive of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth following the lead of several southern states in legislating to make mandatory a certain in-state rivalry game. But seeing bills like this are the sort of thing that remind me why it isn’t a good idea for the states to stay out of the athletic departments.

Wow, interesting info Chas. It’s a real shame that the NCAA got into politics (with their boycott), and politicians are involving themselves into athletics now. It reminds me a lot of ESPN’s stupidity in jumping into liberal causes and unnecessarily alienating half their fan base. I understand the stuff is part of life and therefore sports, but the 2 have become too intermingled. Sports used to be a place to ‘get away from it all’, but its now infected by this disease that’s been spreading like the plague.

Regarding Stallings’ recruiting, I was trying to say the same thing the other day. Admittedly, it’s hard to judge/project a team with that many new guys, especially since they’ll be manning every position on the court (ie, not just a bunch of new guards, or just forwards), but the talent looks pretty decent, has nice position distribution, and even mixes in some experience due to the 2 JUCOS, both of which look like they can play based on stats and write-ups. I seem to recall that Huggins had a lot of success with juco at Cincy, so they can help if you know how to go about the process.

I did get a kick out of the website, when they announced the Navy game they showed a shot of Ryan Luther going up for a layup, nice that they managed to get a picture of only him in the shot, supporting just about the only guy left on the team. You have to wonder what he’s thinking now… I have to imagine he is gone too before next season rolls around.

Comment by 1618mt 04.13.17 @ 8:38 am

Unfortunately jucos are rarely program changers or brought in to stabilize a bunch of freshmen. They’re complementary pieces that are typically sought to blend with established guys. The experience that Simons and WF bring is not ACC experience and it’s fairly clear that matters.

I can’t see Luther transferring with only one year of eligibility remaining unless he can also graduate early. Otherwise he would have to sit a year and he’s already coming off of a half season of downtime.

Comment by Barvo 04.13.17 @ 12:20 pm

Barvo – Generally speaking that’s true, but I’m not sure you can lump “all jucos” together like that, in fact I’m pretty sure you can’t. It’s more about the job KS did in finding the right guys, or not.

And re Luther, if that’s the case that he’s kind of ‘trapped’, well then I do feel bad for him. Hopefully he makes the most of his situation whatever transpires…

Comment by 1618mt 04.13.17 @ 12:59 pm

Luther is trapped. He never redshirted so he’ll be a senior next season. Transferring and sitting out a year to play one more year would be asinine.

Pitt’s beat writer, Craig Meyers, inferred that both Milligan and Nix are trying to graduate over the summer to be grad transfers. There is a very good chance that Luther is the only returning player on the roster.

1618mt – I understand what you’re hoping for but Stalling doesn’t have the track record to make that reality and the odds of it happening, even with another coach, are extremely low.

Freshmen, JUCO’s and grad transfers do not make for a competitive team. It just doesn’t. Especially, in a conference like the ACC. Pitt is in really bad shape right now. Freshmen, JUCO’s and grad transfers are meant to be complimentary players not the meat of the team.

I really don’t see Pitt basketball being very competitive for a long time. Stalling will probably get fired after next season which means we lose the 2018 class as well as more transfers out of the program. If we hit a home run with a new hire, it’s still going to be about 3 years before we see the fruits of that coaches efforts based on the lack of a roster they will inherit.

I love college basketball so I’ll be suffering right there with the team but, even as an optimist, I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.13.17 @ 10:51 pm

Hard to believe that anyone thought that Stallings was the right man for the job. Even though he is known for pretty good recruiting, he had a losing record in the SEC. NCST a pretty good example of what happens when a guy recruits pretty well but can’t coach. The best we can hope for is that Stallings recruits some elite guys next year and the guy that follows him in three or four years knows how to coach and recruit. Much like Narduzzi following Chryst, who knew how to coach and recruit offense. Unlike TT, I don’t see Pitt firing Stallings, much like they wouldn’t have fired Chryst, never a sense of urgency at Pitt, unless the kids make the papers for the wrong reasons ala Wanny. I guess we could hope that Lyke is a wild card, but not lykely.

In any case Pitt is going to pay a major price for the next few years in lost revenue. Going to take years to get the fans back.

Unfortunately, much of this would have happened no matter the new coach, but at least a young up and comer would have given us hope.

Comment by gc 04.14.17 @ 8:17 am

GC – I’m not sure any of us thought Stallings was the right man for the job. I, like many others, simply point to his long, long track record at Vandy. History repeats itself. Is he all of a sudden going to become a really good coach due to a change in scenery? Of course not. The best that we can hope for has always been: bring in some good recruits (I do believe he’s solid in this area), get fired after 3 years of empty seats (ok, I’m hoping for after 2 years), and bring in a new coach. I suspect the mistake Gallagher made was to turn the keys of the basketball program over to an AD widely perceived as a ‘basketball guy’ and then allowing the AD to make an absolute head-scratching hire. The question now remains: what behind-the-scenes plan is in place for a resolution?

And no, I never said KS was a bad coach, maybe ‘averagish’; and No, I never said I wouldn’t be rooting again next year.

Comment by 1618mt 04.14.17 @ 10:15 am

I’m no KS fan but most likely will be rooting for him (or for the team to be more accurate). Won’t expect a lot this coming year but I hope he doesn’t start up again with his post-game ‘don’t blame the coach” rants.

Comment by wbb 04.14.17 @ 12:44 pm

The atmosphere was poisoned to the extent that perhaps only a wholesale line change is the only thing that will clear it. The 2016-17 team was the most unlikable Pitt team that I can remember – so good riddance.

Comment by 2$Chuck 04.14.17 @ 3:38 pm

2$Chuck, I don’t see that although I know other people who think the same. There was nobody on this year’s team that I thought was a bad guy. (In fact, if anyone had a past, it was the coach for a few sorted incidents while at Vandy.)

The two players mostly blamed was Young and Artis yet there was never an issue with them in the past. Young played much of his frosh year with a broken bone in his back, was one of two NCAA athletes selected to serve on a very prestigious national council, and played a few games this year with a broken orbital bone in his eye. And the only issue I saw with Artis was that he didn’t prove to be a good point guard as we hoped

Comment by wbb 04.14.17 @ 5:44 pm

@GC .. 8:17 am … “hard to believe anyone thought KS … “. Agree with your points. Unfortunately though, Barnes believed it for some reason(s). Looking back on that decision, it is puzzling that he believed KS was “the man” and that he would improve Pitt b-ball. The only way that argument works is if Barnes felt that KS was hindered at Vandy by academic requirements and that he would blossom at Pitt with less restrictive ones. Seems flawed to me, given that if he was a good coach, he could/would have done better regardless of the impact academics had on recruiting. Plus, he was competing in the SEC which, other than UK, FL and maybe one other surprise team, was a little less competitive than other P5 conferences. True head scratcher. I think KS will have success at Pitt once he gets his team in place; however, his success will be limited to decent 20+ win seasons and Top 5-ish ACC reg-season finishes, but no titles. Is this really what Barnes envisioned ?

Comment by Tomas 04.14.17 @ 5:54 pm

I’ll be rooting big time for KS to win his first National Championship! H2P

Comment by HbgFrank 04.14.17 @ 7:11 pm

Tomas – that’s really optimistic. What has Stallings done to warrant that much optimism?

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.14.17 @ 7:57 pm

Troy Simons out at pitt due to grades.

Comment by Alcofan 04.14.17 @ 10:00 pm

Alcofan – I was just coming on the board to post that very news.

Pitt now has 4 spots to fill before next season that could still turn into 6 spots. Smh.

I know Pitt won’t do it. I know it’s delusional to even mention it but now is the perfect time to cut ties. Next season is already lost. Losing this class is not going to change the trajectory of the program. It’s already in a death spiral. No recovering from it.

Fire Stallings and deal with the fallout (It really can’t get worse) Pay the buyout then go cheap and hire B-Knight. Rid ourselves of this train wreck and give us a connection to our past.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.14.17 @ 10:53 pm

TT …. wow, didn’t realize 20+ win seasons was really optimistic. To me, that is a minimum to be considered a good year. I don’t have anything specific to warrant that, other than he should be a good enough recruiter and coach to get it done. Like I said, I’m not expecting titles from him.

Comment by Tomas 04.14.17 @ 11:39 pm

TT, I just don’t see B Knight as a head coach. Don’t know how much was his fault, but a direct correlation with the down trend at Pitt and his coaching tenure, especially recruiting. Unless you were talking Billy Knight. Just kidding.

The obvious key is recruiting, and Stallings who is supposed to be good at it hasn’t distinguished himself so far.

Maybe we need some foreign guys. Haven’t had many , Zavackas, Adams, Kendall and the guy that started the down trend Montreal’s Gift.
We have a lot of foreign undergrads and grad students, why not some on the basketball team?

Comment by gc 04.15.17 @ 5:46 am

don’t forget Zanna .. .he worked out well

Comment by wbb 04.15.17 @ 7:15 am

BTW, I believe the incoming class has 2 Canadians

Comment by wbb 04.15.17 @ 7:17 am

Simons was the top JUCO scorer, so losing him hurts an already fragile situation.

GC – As a person who is on record many times as believing we need to fire KS NOW, I still believe he’s a better recruiter than Dixon, and its too soon to judge him negatively in this area in my opinion.

TT – From what other posters have said, BK is not a very good recruiter; if this is true, then best case we scenario with him is Dixon situation- a guy that can coach but not recruit, but at least in Dixon’s case he’s a proven coach, whereas BK is not. So I just don’t see it with BK unfortunately. I think we want him to prove himself, understandably.

Comment by 1618mt 04.15.17 @ 8:01 am

link to

Who called this?

Comment by Upittbaseball 04.15.17 @ 8:34 am

Gc – I don’t either. Just wishful thinking as a way to accommodate the buyout. That was less an endorsement and more a ticket out of a bad situation. Hiring a rookie coach wouldn’t be ideal. BTW, the downfall came when SP came back. That’s the correlation. BK was the best recruiter on the staff during his tenure.

Tomas – I may have misread your post. For some reason I originally read it as being a regular top 5 ACC finisher, which I don’t see, if ever.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.15.17 @ 8:41 am

TT .. no problem. I don’t see it happening every year either.

Certainly you could expect UNC, Duke, UVA and Louisville to be consistently taking the Top4 .. and in a good year, we would battle Syracuse, ND and one or two other mid-level squads for the 5-6 slots. Not a lot of room for error.

Looking at it like that, it blows me away why Barnes thought (assuming he did) KS would get us into the top of the ACC and challenge for titles. Like you said, there is no evidence that he could do that in 15+ years at Vandy. Why would he become great now ?

Perhaps Barnes was comfortable simply with mediocrity ?

Comment by Tomas 04.15.17 @ 10:52 am

Any comments from Spring game?

Comment by MariettaMike 04.15.17 @ 5:06 pm

Marietta…comments on the POV site

Comment by BigB 04.15.17 @ 5:36 pm

People are saying Simmons is not coming to Pitt because of his grades are simply repeating a rumor that makes them feel better. That’s a mean rumor to repeat about a kid anyway and IF his grades were an issue they should have known that months ago.

The kid changed his mind and only he really knows the actual reason. They say Pitt won’t offer him and others will. That sounds like a program issue.

How many of you would wait around to see if you landed a job while unemployed if the were other offers?

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 04.15.17 @ 9:13 pm

link to

“Junior college guard Troy Simons, a University Prep graduate who verbally committed to Pitt in the fall, is visiting New Mexico this weekend after he failed to sign a letter of intent with the Panthers on Wednesday, his former coach Matt Furjanic said.

Furjanic coached Simons at Polk (Fla.) Junior College. He said Simons didn’t receive a visit or a letter of intent because he was told by Pitt director of basketball operations Dan Cage that it’s not the program’s policy to do so with junior college transfers until they graduate.

Furjanic, a Rankin native who formerly coached at Robert Morris and Pitt-Greensburg, said Simons is on track to graduate by June 20.

“Because Pitt didn’t offer him a visit or a letter of intent, I felt it was in his best interests to look at other options because Pitt is making no attempt to sign him,” Furjanic said.

Furjanic said Illinois and South Florida also expressed interest in Simons, who led the NJCAA in scoring last season with an average of 26.3 points per game.

Simons was recruited to Pitt by former assistant coach Jeremy Ballard, who recently left to take a job at VCU.”

Comment by NickC 04.15.17 @ 9:20 pm

The basketball program seems like it’s such a shit show right now that I think there really should be a statement from Lyke about the plan to get things on track. When you have an entire team leave, there has to be some kind of damage control, don’t you think?

Comment by panther94 04.15.17 @ 10:14 pm

the program is already dead. why bother

Comment by TX Panther 04.16.17 @ 2:00 pm

Embarrassing Shoesalesman Coach. Luke is a compliance puppet and we lose 2-3 in baseball to a very bad Miami team. Oh wait Heather and her EMU clout will save us. Comical

Comment by Upittbaseball 04.16.17 @ 8:01 pm

I’m not saying she’s going to save us Upitt…I’m actually saying that I find the silence about the whole thing disturbing. It means they either don’t care or have no idea what they’re doing. I guess we’re keeping a basketball team just to stay in the ACC. idk…i’ve always been the optimist, but this is beyond bad and there is no hope.

Comment by panther94 04.16.17 @ 10:02 pm

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