Stallings vows to bring fast-paced, fan-friendly basketball to Panthers
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes said he wasn't trying to ‘win' the news conference introducing basketball coach Kevin Stallings.
“Are you trying to make a splash, or are you trying to hire a fit that will potentially and deliberately advance your program long-term? You look for the best coach that fits the long-term needs of meeting your goals,” Barnes said.
Addressing negative fan backlash since the announcement of Stallings' hire Sunday, Barnes held his ground 24 hours later and insisted Stallings, who guided Vanderbilt to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in 17 seasons, eventually will turn those complaints into compliments.
“It will take fans a while because maybe they were looking — some of them, not all of them — for something different,” Barnes said. “We couldn't be more excited. The team couldn't be more excited. The fans, as they get to know him, will be that way as well.”
Stallings, 55, was selected from five finalists that included longtime Pitt assistant Brandin Knight. In his first official move, Stallings hired longtime Vanderbilt assistant Tom Richardson, according to CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein.
Following Barnes' introduction, Stallings crafted a lengthy narrative as a veteran coach whose new boss described as one of the top offensive minds in college basketball.
Asked about the status of next year's roster, considering that some Panthers reportedly are thinking about transferring following the departure of Jamie Dixon, Stallings looked directly at those players in attendance and expressed his loyalty to them.
“My first hope is none of those guys sitting there will transfer,” said Stallings, who met with the Panthers for about 30 to 40 minutes before meeting with reporters.
Stallings described his coaching style as player-friendly.
“The most unproductive capacity you can put a player in is when a guy is playing with one eye on the court and one eye on the bench. These guys will be allowed to make mistakes,” said Stallings, who signed a six-year contract according to ESPN. “The better players will be allowed to make more mistakes than the guys that might not be as good. Just like they'll be able to shoot more than guys that don't shoot as well. I've never had a problem relinquishing control of the game to the players.”
Stallings all but issued a public apology to Sheldon Jeter, a 6-foot-7 junior from Beaver Falls whom the coach prevented from transferring from Vanderbilt to Pitt after his freshman year. Jeter attended a junior college for one year before joining the Panthers last season.
“If we had to do the situation again, things might have been handled a little bit differently,” Stallings said. “I've spoken with Sheldon. I've spoken with his family. I think we're all comfortable with going forward.”
Stallings also delivered a message to Pitt fans and alumni regarding his philosophy about scheduling a competitive nonconference schedule.
“I'm going to put together a schedule that, first, my players like; second, our fans will enjoy; and third, is something that Scott feels good about,” Stallings said.
This year, Vanderbilt's nonconference schedule included Kansas, Baylor, Dayton and Wake Forest, plus Texas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
“If it was left to fans, you would play Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky, and if you couldn't find anybody good to play, you'd try to play those three again,” Stallings said. “You have to be intelligent in the way you schedule. We'll put together a schedule that I think people will appreciate and enjoy.”
Stallings said Pitt fans should enjoy his team's up-tempo playing style.
“Every coach gets up in a press conference and says we're going to play fast, we're going to play exciting,” Stallings said. “That's how I see the game. I see it fast. I like it fast. Fans like it fast. Players like it fast. Why wouldn't we play fast?”