These numbers are bad no matter how you massage them.
Since the end of Stallings’ first season – and the first losing season at Pitt (16-17, 4-14 ACC) since 2000 — four players have announced plans to transfer, including sophomore Cam Johnson, who would have been Pitt’s top returning scorer. A fifth player — point guard Justice Kithcart — was dismissed by Stallings near the end of the season.
That’s in addition to the loss of four seniors, all of whom were starters.
Nine players out, and six coming in (at the moment). It stands to reason that sooner or later, new AD Heather Lyke would get asked about basketball coach Kevin Stallings and Pitt basketball.
Yesterday she got the question while at an event with Robert Morris and Duquesne to, well, celebrate the volume of upcoming NCAA events to be held in Pittsburgh.
In a four-year stretch from 2019-22, Pittsburgh will be host to the 2021 Frozen Four (with Robert Morris as host school), first- and second-round games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2022 (Duquesne), the Division I wrestling championships in 2019 (Pitt) and the women’s volleyball championship in 2019 (Duquesne). In all, between the Division I, II and III levels, Pittsburgh was awarded 22 preliminary and final rounds of NCAA competitions, the most of any city.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament returning no doubt spurred questions to Lyke about Stallings.
“I’m excited about working with him and the opportunity,” Lyke said. “My biggest question was really finding out what he’s about, why he wants to be at Pitt and what’s his vision for building this program. After my conversations with him, I know he wants to be here, I know he’s committed to being here. I’m very confident in his ability to start to build it.”
Though the current situation surrounding the program appears unfavorable, Lyke sees promise.
“He’s got a ways to go, but we need to support him, we need to be behind him and we all need to get to know him a little bit better,” she said. “That’s what I’m doing right now — spending time to get to know him and figuring out what are the greatest ways we can support him and get him connected with all of you so you get to know him as well.”
If you were expecting her to blast Stallings, cut him off at the knees and/or announce his beheading at midfield prior to the start of the season opener in football; then you are no doubt disappointed.
It was as expected. Being positive about him. Supportive and talking about rallying the fanbase (presumably that’s who she was referring, and not the media on the scene which has been supportive enough) behind him.
It is worth noting that AD Lyke made no mention of how long Stallings will be supported. She spoke of helping him and supporting him. Even believing in Stallings. But there was no comment about how Stallings will be the coach for a long time. Absolutely no time commitment was made in this.
Stallings will get to three years, simply because no AD can or would make that move so quickly. The perception among other coaches (and many fanbases) of Pitt after seeing Dixon pushed out is that the demands on the coach for success relative to the program are outsized to reality. Firing a coach — even one who appears to be floundering badly — that quickly would only shrink the pool of coaches interested in Pitt (see, also, NC State’s next two coaching searches post-Herb Sendek).
In more interesting and positive coaching news, there is former Pitt great Ricardo Greer. Greer had a long and prosperous career in Europe, but retired a few years ago and quietly got into college coaching. He had been the Director of Player Development at Central Florida for the past two years, but has now been hired to be an assistant coach at Dayton under Anthony Grant.
I’m excited for Greer. He was the brightest spot at the end of the Willard era, and he immediately bought into Ben Howland as a junior. He practically dragged Pitt to the Big East Tournament Championship game as a senior. That run, even ending in defeat, is still among my absolute favorite weeks as a Pitt fan.