Rossi: Good luck selling this Pitt coach

Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference March 21, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference March 21, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Photo by Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
| Sunday, March 27, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

Sometimes, Pittsburgh's university seems completely disconnected from our city, as if Oakland were actually Mars.

Not Mars, Pa.

I'm talking about the Red Planet.

On Sunday, it seemed as though Pitt went there to find its new basketball coach.

Kevin Stallings might be a good basketball coach. He's won some award. Whoopee.

But Pitt had a good coach in Jamie Dixon, and he bolted for TCU having finally figured out what the hiring of Stallings confirmed.

There are a lot of better college basketball jobs than the one at Pitt.

With Scott Barnes' peculiar pick of a middling SEC veteran to helm a program up against significant disadvantages in the ACC, maybe it's time to wonder if Dixon also had figured out something about Pitt's new athletic director.

Maybe Barnes is in over his head?

He appears to be out of his mind with his first big hire.

There is no way he can sell Stallings.

Not in Oakland.

Not to Pittsburghers.

Not even on Mars.

Don Draper couldn't sell Stallings, and Draper isn't real.

On Saturday night, after CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported that Stallings had emerged as Pitt's primary target, the reaction on Twitter was real.

It was brutal.

It were as if Stallings had graduated from Penn State, attended grad school at West Virginia, and supported a thesis that contended Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was actually in Cleveland.

As it was, Pitt basketball supporters simply hated what Stallings wasn't.

He wasn't a Pitt guy.

He wasn't a Pittsburgh guy.

He wasn't a guy leaving a proven bigger program.

He wasn't a guy jumping from an emerging smaller program.

He wasn't a guy who had been a top assistant.

He wasn't a young guy.

He wasn't a known guy.

As Pitt's new guy, Stallings is a Seriously, this guy?-guy.

He's the guy who took only seven of his 17 Vanderbilt teams to the NCAA Tournament, never reaching the Elite Eight.

His conference was never as deep as the ones Dixon coached Pitt in.

His teams didn't dance as often as Dixon's did at Pitt. His teams never stuck around the dance as long as Dixon's best one did at Pitt.

So, what are we supposed to be buying?

“Coach Stallings and I share the same vision for Pitt — playing in the Final Four,” Barnes said in a news release.

And after that, what: a lunar launch?

Or are we going straight into a Pitt-Pluto championship game?

No wonder Sean Miller — and Archie Miller (and for all we know Heath, Barney and Frank Miller) — didn't dig the Pitt job.

The first-year AD is talking about the Final Four, and he just hired a coach who reportedly was near being fired after reaching the tournament for the first time in four years.

Except, is it really reaching the tournament if you're done after a play-in game?

And did Barnes really describe Stallings as possessing “impeccable character”?

I wonder if Barnes has ever met Pitt's Sheldon Jeter.

I wonder if Barnes knows that words matter.

After his freshman year at Vanderbilt, Jeter requested a transfer. His request was denied.

Jeter's specific request — transfer to Pitt, so he could play big-time basketball at the Power-5 school closest to his native Beaver Falls — was what Stallings denied.

Stallings was willing to allow Jeter to go anywhere else.

It was petty.

It was ridiculous.

It is incredible that Pitt basketball now belongs to Stallings.

And how ignorant for Barnes to have said Pitt was “a national job.”

Nobody was buying that by Sunday, not after Pitt bricked its shot to make a big basketball hire.

Not alumni.

Not players.

Not Pittsburghers.

No sale.

Not here on planet Earth, anyway.

Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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