Pitt fires basketball coach Kevin Stallings after 2 tumultuous seasons
Pitt parted ways with basketball coach Kevin Stallings, the school confirmed via a news release Thursday morning after he met with athletic director Heather Lyke.
Stallings completed his second season as the Panthers coach Tuesday with an opening-round loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament. Pitt was the only team in the country not to win a conference game this season, going 0-18 in the ACC and finishing its season on a 19-game losing streak.
Pitt Director of Athletics Heather Lyke Announces Men's Basketball Leadership Change https://t.co/UYUUr082HT— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) March 8, 2018
A source who spoke to Stallings said the veteran coach "wasn't surprised" and that the meeting with Lyke was cordial.
"I want to express my appreciation to Coach Stallings for his commitment to our program," Lyke said in a prepared statement. "In moving forward, we have tremendous expectations for our men's basketball program at Pitt and I believe we can achieve great things within the Atlantic Coast Conference and nationally. A national search for the next Pitt head coach will begin immediately."
Less than a year into her tenure, Lyke will have her first major hire in a revenue-producing sport. Stallings was hired by former athletic director Scott Barnes to replace Jamie Dixon, who left to coach his alma mater, TCU.
Pitt had made the NCAA Tournament 11 times in 13 seasons under Dixon. Stallings finished 24-41 overall and 4-32 in ACC play.
After going 16-17 in his first season with a veteran team, almost the entire roster was turned over (Stallings brought in 11 new players) for 2017-18. The results were worse, 8-24, although the season-ending injury to senior forward Ryan Luther in December did not help.
Only three of Pitt's 18 regular-season conference games this season were decided by fewer than 10 points, and seven were by more than 20 points.
Before Stallings' consecutive losing seasons, Pitt hadn't finished below .500 since 1999-2000.
Firing the 57-year-old Stallings without cause would come with a sizable buyout, reportedly more than $9 million. It is rare, but not unheard of, that a school fires a coach after just two seasons. Stallings signed a six-year contract when he was signed in March 2016.
Stallings previously was coach at Vanderbilt for 17 seasons, going 332-220 and making the NCAA Tournament seven times. Counting six seasons before that at Illinois State, Stallings is 479-324 in 25 seasons as a Division I coach.
Attendance plummeted at the Petersen Events Center the past two seasons, particularly this winter when record lows for crowds repeatedly were set. The Panthers averaged 4,117 fans per home game, breaking the previous record low of 8,327 set in Stallings' first season.
Other than an 81-word release that announced the "men's basketball leadership change," Pitt officials were not available for comment. No news conference is scheduled.
Staff writer Jerry DiPaola contributed. Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.