Monday, March 28, 2016

Passing of the Torch

Now that people can maybe look at things more rationally, including me, let's look at how this whole thing went down.

First, I will talk about the dear departed Jamie Dixon. I often got accused of being a Dixon apologist, but that's mostly because I wouldn't say "he sucks", which I heard multiple times a day from fans. One of the best things about doing this is that I've been around long enough that I've gotten to know a lot of coaches, and because I never burned them, they trust me with their real thoughts. And they thought what Dixon did at Pitt was nothing less than a miracle. I know a lot of people don't want to hear that because they think Pitt is supposed to be in the Final Four every year, but Pitt is not considered an easy place to win big. I emphasized that because Pitt does have a lot more going for it than most programs around the nation, but it doesn't have everything it takes to win big. And I think if Pitt fans can get it out of their head that they're not one of the blue blood programs, they will be much  happier. That does not mean you shouldn't want to get the absolute most out of your program, but I heard names like John Calipari, Billy Donovan, and Gregg Marshall during the recruiting search, and with all due respect that shows just how out of touch many Pitt fans are. I can't stress this enough- coaches are NOT falling all over themselves to get to Pitt.

These are some of the quotes I've collected over the years from coaches, and how Pitt is perceived nationally:

"Do Pitt fans still think Miller will come? LOL"
"What are they smoking there? Don't they know what they have?
"If Dixon goes, they will realize."
"What are they thinking there?"
"When Dixon goes those Pitt fans of yours are screwed."

That's just some of them. I know many won't believe that because they still think Calipari and Miller secretly want to come to Pitt, but this is why I defended Dixon so much.

And I still had hope for Dixon up until the end of this year. I was warned that moving to the ACC will really hurt Pitt, and Dixon himself confided in people that it worried him, until he found a way to reinvent his program. And I had hoped that Dixon was strong enough to adapt and last out those last seven years of his contract. And I thought that if his team could get hot, beat Wisconsin and Xavier in the tournament, then follow it up with players like Justice Kithcart and Cory Manigault, Dixon could have the Panthers back on track. But when Pitt looked terrible in the first round I knew that was it. I even tweeted that that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Dixon, and the players, looked like they had enough.

The downside was that Dixon had seven years left on a very big contract. There's no way Pitt could fire him, and I didn't see him going just anywhere. His alma mater, TCU, didn't give a damn about basketball- until they did. Suddenly TCU wanted to invest in basketball, and who better than their golden boy, Dixon? He saved Dixon, TCU, and we assumed Pitt, all at once. Now Pitt can start fresh with a young up and comer. Pitt apparently thought that, too, since they didn't try to stop him.

But then things went downhill. Athletic Director Scott Barnes talked the talk and basically said he was looking for a young, fresh coach with a fast paced offense and who can recruit like hell. It sounded great and everybody was up for that. After thirteen years of very successful, but very bland, Dixon, a breath of fresh air was what was needed.

The problems started, however, when the coaching community that I've been hearing from for years were talking to national media guys, and the same thing came up. And that was that nobody with real options wanted to follow a coach that wasn't respected by his school, or the fans, despite being the most successful coach they ever had- by far. I know a lot of Pitt fans don't want to hear this either but not only did I hear it from coaches, but many national media guys repeated the same thing from coaches they've talked to. Nobody is making it up. Coaches want to be comfortable and Dixon never looked comfortable at Pitt. He overachieved at the program and the fans didn't appreciate that. And at the end, by letting him go, that told coaches around the country that the administration didn't care either. Whether all of this is true or not doesn't matter because perception is reality and that's what Barnes was up against.

But despite this fact, Barnes acted like it wasn't true. He acted like coaches would fall over themselves to come to Pitt. Not only did both Millers and Ben Howland say they weren't interested, I know for a fact from a source in the basketball department that two other P5 coaches (both in the same conference) and a non-P5 coach also said they had no interest. And that's just the ones I know of. The non-P5 coach was a less experienced coach that I thought Pitt may have a chance with. Both of the P5 coaches were a pipe dream, and the fact that Barnes didn't know that shows he may be out of touch.

Kevin Keatts wasn't even interviewed, and that's not a surprise. But would Will Wade be interested? And would he be better? Maybe. But the options weren't good. That led to Kevin Stallings who was on the hot seat after 17 seasons at Vanderbilt. His Vanderbilt team, led by three NBA draft picks, was favored to be win their division in the SEC, and they were a preseason top 25 team. Instead he went 11-7 in the SEC and barely squeaked into the tournament. His excuse was that his team was young and that he over scheduled because he thought they had the talent to compete.

It's no doubt that the Pitt fans who aren't really basketball fans would be outraged by Stallings. They think Pitt was destined for national championship by the boatload for some reason. And I can't speak for the rest of the people, but for me I was upset because of the type of coach Stallings is. He is cut from the same cloth as Dixon, Howland, Ralph Willard, and Paul Evans. Nothing fancy, on or off the court. Boring, in fact. It was time for that up and coming, hard recruiting, fast paced coach that Pitt needed, and that Barnes basically promised. The fact that he came up with Stallings after a very suspect search firm recommendation is especially troubling. To put it bluntly, this wasn't Barnes at his best (at least I hope).

But now that we acknowledge that let's look at Stallings in a rational way. He's considered one of the best offensive minds in college basketball. In fact, a recent poll by college coaches ranked him as the seventh best offensive coach in the country. That's impressive, as is the fact that he's averaged 20 wins a year at Illinois State and Vanderbilt, two places that are harder to win at than Pitt. Vanderbilt started playing basketball in 1900 and Stallings has half of their tournament appearances. That's another check in his favor. As a recruiter he's considered to be a very good one. Good enough that he's had seven NBA draft picks already, and will likely have three more this year. And that includes two first rounders this year. The downside is that despite having those NBA draft picks this year, and being a preseason top 25 team, he barely got into the tournament. One season does not mean everything, but of course there's always a chance that it could mean something.

To be honest, Stallings is really not below average at anything. In fact, he's pretty good at every aspect of coaching. Great at anything? Perhaps not, but not many are. Dixon certainly wasn't. I don't hide the fact that I think Dixon was an excellent coach, but Stallings is a better recruiter and a better offensive mind. Does that mean he will win 25 games a year like Dixon did? Highly unlikely. But that doesn't mean he can't get into a Sweet 16 or an Elite 8. Why couldn't he? He's a great offensive mind and he gets NBA type talent. Those two traits can make you successful in the tournament.

Stallings is 55, and has coached for 23 years. He hasn't hit it big yet, but that doesn't mean he still can't now that he's at the highest level he's ever been. Dana Altman was Oregon's third choice and didn't make the Sweet 16 until he was 54 and in his 24th year. He didn't get into the Elite 8 until this year, at 57 years old and in his 26th year. Bo Ryan bounced around for years in NAIA and D-3 before he made the Elite 8 at age 57. John Beilein was coaching for 25 years before he got hired by a major college- West Virginia- and he didn't make the Elite 8 until he was 54. The moral of the story is, you really don't know what a coach will do at a high level until he actually is there.

Bottom line, Stallings could flop, or Stallings could be wildly successful. I predict he'd be somewhere in between. Is that what Pitt fans want? Is that what I want? No. But he could conceivably do better than even I expect and it wouldn't surprise me. He is a very good coach, even if he wasn't the type of coach that I wanted.

133 comments:

  1. This has a Danny Nee feel to it. Pretty similar resumes. We saw how that worked out for Duquesne.

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  2. Thanks for the article. We will have Stallings for a while so we will just have to live with it. The manner in which Scott Barnes acted today at the press conference tells me he has no idea how badly he has hurt Pitt fans perception of him. We are the "noise" he rose above for the hire. If Pitt keeps the video of the news conference on their website, I wonder if that statement will be edit out. Heck if they edit the thing, it will look like a redacted high security file.

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  3. I think people have been too hard on Stallings ... and you, for that matter, Doke. It is possible to be disappointed and hopeful at the same time. Granted, the pick of a new coach might be the only case in which that applies.

    The bottom line is that it was unlikely that Jamie Dixon was going to be able to the program back to its peak of around 2009. And it might not be likely that Stallings can do it, either. But he's proven to be a better recruiter, so he has that leg-up on Dixon already.

    Like with all new collegiate coaches, it's best to withhold judgment — good and bad — until Year Three of conference play.

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    1. Better recruiter? That is not what the objective data shows. Per 24/7 over the past 13 years stallings average class was about #50. Dixon's was #41. This is revisionist thinking based on landing a small sprinkling of future NBA draftees among a large majority of mediocre players.

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    2. Year three? Why? If this were an up and comer with a short history at a mid-major I would agree with you. But it is not. He has a 17 year track record in a P5 conference. Dixon would have most likely had at least a repeat of last year given the returning players. We should have the same expectation floor for Stallings first year. If instead we get under 0.500 in the ACC, we will know we made a bad hire in season one.

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    3. Stallings is considered a very good recruiter. He doesn't have a big group of top prospects to choose from there and he still brought in top 100 players.

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    4. I think Dok stated it well. Most of us were more upset with the process. The Jeter situation still boggles my mind. They hired a guy Pitt fans already didn't like. Who does that? Now that they did, he appears to be a very good coach.

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    5. I agree many think he is a very good recruiter. Nevertheless, the overall long term data suggests that overall the reality is otherwise. I suspect that considering him a good recruiter is simply a perception based on his occasionally landing a top 100 kid.

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    6. He's not on an even playing field. Most schools literally have three times more players to choose from than Vanderbilt.

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    7. Well, that better be the reason he didn't recruit better at Vandy. Based on the relationship between his recruiting rankings and his annual results he will need to consistently recruit top 20 classes at Pitt to get Dixon's results with top 40 classes.

      Lets hope he can do that. But, I will believe it when I see it.

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  4. For as much as I wanted Dixon gone...
    You don't let Dixon go.... only to get Stallings.
    I think many feel that way.
    An up and comer would have been a better choice and the fans would accept. ie. Enfield, Bobby Hurley, etc.

    Barnes said he interviewed 3 other HC's. Who?
    Rumor had it Enfield wanted Dixon money and Barnes said NO.

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    1. Rumor is not something we can discuss because it's not fact. Enfield may have wanted a lot of money or maybe he wasn't interested. All we know is that nobody knows.

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  5. Hi Doke!
    Very good article, thanks for your thoughts. It seems to me that right now the coaching situation is a push, Dixon and Stallings both needed to change schools and reinvent themselves. Stallings has a chance to surpass Dixon and his legacy at Pitt if he can recruit better and open up the offense and run more. Stallings sounded good at his press conference and I am warming up to this hire!
    scooterj

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  6. I watched the press conference and Stallings kept saying how much he cares about his players. If he cared so much why did he refuse to let jeter transfer only to Pitt and why did he tell one of his beloved kids I'm going to kill you. Why wasn't that question asked.
    He said he would have done it differently I he had the chance to do it over. So what!

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    1. Neither one of those players have a grudge against Stallings. If they can get over it so should the fans.

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    2. Heat of the moment. Can one imagine what the assistant coach was saying to Papa Ndao after he was ejected? The coach berated him all the way into the locker room.

      Ndao crossed a line and so did Baldwin. There are consequences.

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  7. What are your thoughts on his chances of keeping the current recruits?

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  8. Chris, thanks for the in-depth information.

    What do you think are the chances Stallings keeps this recruiting class together?

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    1. Don't know yet. If Knight stays that should help with Kithcart at least.

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  9. Dokes, I'm hearing that Stallings offered Knight a position on his staff. Any truth to this rumor? Any word on who else might comprise his staff.

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    1. Knight has been asked. No idea on the staff yet, though.

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  10. To the person with all of the profanity, try again without it. I swear like a truck driver but there may be kids reading this blog so I'm trying to keep it clean.

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    1. I love your blog but there aren't any kids reading this, just lots of immature adults

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  11. Did you tweet you were done with Pitt Hoops after getting word of this hire?

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    1. Yes. It was a joke. I joke a lot on Twitter. Apparently sometimes people can't tell the difference. That's how good my jokes are.

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  12. Sounds pretty much like I suspected. The outrage was because Pitt fans expected better, and were promised better(or maybe "better" isn't the right word, maybe "more exciting), but when it came down to it, none of those "better" or "more exciting" coaches WANTED THE JOB. And, to be honest, the way things played out I think it was probably even worse than most people are letting on. I wouldn't be shocked if this was a situation of the first 5 or 6 choices turned it down and this guy is Barnes's friend and his track record is decent so hey why not.

    Truthfully, Stallings is probably as good a coach as Pitt could've gotten. I myself was disappointed, but I realize the truth now and that is that a lot of people do not want this job. I'm willing to give the guy a chance, because he has had major college success in the past. People want to talk about Stallings's tournament track record? Look at Dixon's. Lost in the second round as a #1 seed. Lost in the Elite 8 as a #1 overall seed with 2 NBA draft picks on the team. You can question a lot about how Stallings might not measure up to Dixon, but success in the tournament isn't one of those categories.

    Finally, if Stallings doesn't behave like a raving lunatic on the sidelines that micromanages every possesion, maybe the team will at the very least be a little more fun to watch.

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    1. It all about $$ if they offer Dixon $$ they would got what they won't ed

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  13. He threatened to kill a player. That disqualifies him for me. Withdrew my annual donation effective this morning.

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    1. No you didn't. You didn't make an annual donation to withdraw.

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  14. For Barnes to get back to the good side with fans...
    Stallings needs to go Sweet 16 next season.
    Then all will be fine.
    If not, Barnes will be booted just like Pederson.
    Thank God Barnes had nothing to do with the Football HC hiring.

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  15. You've obviously never seen what it's like with coaches. That's not even in the top 100 I've seen. And he did it to teach the kid la lesson. The kid was mocking an opponent after beating him. And the kid said afterward that he loves the guy and wasn't offended. Move on.

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    1. Totally agree. My lord, I've said "I'm gonna kill you" to people like 1,000 times in my life. It doesn't mean you're going to do it. It's a figure of speech that you hear 10 times a day from people.

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    2. Chris...honestly...you are only saying this because he is now your coach. If wvu hired this guy, you'd be shredding him.

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    3. Probably. But it wouldn't be because I'd be right. It would be because I didn't investigate it closer.

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  16. Evans was a character off the court, one year the night before the Big East tournament opening game he was at the Pittsburgh airport Marriott and everyone was buying him drinks, that guy was a wild man. Kinda made me think why wasn't he with the team traveling?

    That's the past but I think Pitt will be ok with this guy, I didn't like the hire initally but he handled himself ok today under some adversity. I wish him the best

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    1. I always liked Evans. His grumpy demeanor was charming to me. But he also had a lot of respect for the school.

      I was a drummer in the Pep Band from 1988 - 1992, and after ever game, we played the Alma Mater. Evans made a point to have his team stand and face us while we played it, and then he'd release them to go to the locker room — whether we won or lost. Always thought that was super classy.

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  17. Trey Wallace:The fact that Stallings would go on Radio in Nashville (safe zone) and throw the team under the bus truly doesn't surprise me. Have fun Pitt
    --------
    Stallings is displaying that high character Barnes talked about.

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  18. Lost in all the hand-wringing is the fact that Dixon may be the one who has made a terrible decision. Given the incoming recruits, he may have finally had the personnel to compete in the ACC. Now he goes to the worst program in the Big 12(-2) -- a conference that sent 7 teams to the tournament. He has to face off against Self, Kruger and Smart. He is recruiting in brand-new territory -- and we've seen how tough that is for him (not to mention, he is not an ace recruiter). Lastly, he has never led a total reclamation project. He was Howland's assistant, coming in with no expectations at Pitt and took over a program that had been turned around.

    In 3-4 years, maybe Pitt AND Dixon will regret their hasty divorce.

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  19. So... you're basically saying the Pitt football job (despite it's trials and tribulations the past 25 years) is more sought after job than the basketball job? Please explain.

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    1. Yes. It's all about getting players. There's more good football players around Pittsburgh than basketball players.

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    2. Yes, it helps to have a local treasure trove of blue-chippers, but it's certainly not required if a staff can recruit well.

      For example, Oregon was a 1-seed this year and didn't have a single player from the state or Oregon on its roster. And there are usually several players from Pennsylvania on Duke's roster.

      So it can be done. We're certainly not Duke, but we're arguably better than Oregon as far as things to offer a recruit.

      It can be done.

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    3. I tweeted that fact about Oregon last week, and yes it can be done but even at Oregon it's a little easier because they can pull kids from the very talent rich state of CA. And that's where most of their players are from. I think they also have three kids from Canada.

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    4. The reason Dixon could not get players is his style of play. Due to AAU, top players are not attracted to his style of play.

      Recruiting is the lifeblood of BB moreso than FB.
      As a result of mediocre recruiting, especially the last 5 years is why Pitt is middle of the pack in the ACC.

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  20. Chris...love the blog and thanks for all of the great work here and on twitter with Pitt athletics. Its probably been said a thousand times but my big issue is that if Barnes was willing to let Dixon go then he better have a home run candidate that is a sure thing. You don't let your winningest coach go (and reduce the buyout) without that. Based on the search and the hire, Barnes did not meaning he is either delusional about the Pitt job or in over his head. Probably a little bit of both. I will support Stallings b/c I'm a Pitt fan, but I am disappointed that Dixon left. He was a perfect fir for Pittsburgh and I rooted for him as much as the team.

    One question; what did you mean by this: "Dixon, and the players, looked like they had enough."....were the players tuning him out towards the end (3 straight losses)?

    Thanks.

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    1. It wasn't so much turning on him but Dixon has a very intense, hands on approach, and that's fine as long as you're winning big. But when you're not the players get drained from it and they just have enough. It especially happens when a coach is at a place for too long.

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  21. I think you have a revisionist memory. A few hours before everything went down Saturday, you put up a post about the four major candidates, and not once did you mention Pitt was so hard up on finding coaches. For Enfield, it was about coming home, money, and his wife. And for Drew, it was about religion. Now, two days later, you're acting like you knew all along the hiring pool was very thin. I don't buy it.

    I'm not delusional. I know Pitt is not a major destination. But it is a mid-tier program in the best conference in the country. There had to have been plenty of mid-major coaches on the rise who were at least interested in talking.

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    1. You're joking, right? I've tweeted and wrote posts for years about this. Anybody that follows me with any regularity at all knows that I've talked about this incessantly.

      And as for the post about the candidates I never wrote that any of them would day it. I said MAYBE if the conditions were right they'd do it.

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  22. Chris, how did you compile your original list of coaches? I am curious because if you can come up with a solid list of coaches that Pitt should pursue why does an AD need a search firm (other than to try to keep the rejections private)? How hard is it for a guy whose profession is an athletic director to do the same on his own?

    Did anyone else catch Coach Stallings admit he was contacted before Dixon officially left? He was asked about it yesterday but just mentioned some 'other coach' mentioned to him that Jaime might be leaving. Sounds kind of fishy.

    dubb

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    1. I compile it just by doing research. Pitt can do the same. Some don't use a search committee. And they shouldn't. It's the biggest scam going.

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    2. Usually people use a search committee for a CYA and yes it's a scam a high paying one

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  23. If you had to choose, who would you hire: Stalling or Knight?

    It's hard for me to fathom that some fans thought Calipari or Donovan or whoever else was going to walk through the door. Do you quickly check in on Sean Miller and say hello? Sure. He's not interested, move on.

    Now, I am surprised to hear how (for a lack of a better word) difficult the job is perceive by many. It's not Duke, UNC or Kentucky but the Pitt job has a lot going for it. Are there high expectations? Yes. There are expectations everywhere in power conference sports.

    And maybe it's because I don't live in Pittsburgh anymore but were there really that many fans who didn't appreciate Dixon? Look, I was at Pitt from 2001 to 2005. Jamie Dixon could do very little wrong in my eyes for a long, long time. Now, I agree that we reached the point where it was best for both parties to move on. That does NOT, however, change my appreciation for him. My appreciation is as high as ever.

    The search process is what rubbed me the wrong way. This paragraph sums it up: "But then things went downhill. Athletic Director Scott Barnes talked the talk and basically said he was looking for a young, fresh coach with a fast paced offense and who can recruit like hell. It sounded great and everybody was up for that. After thirteen years of very successful, but very bland, Dixon, a breath of fresh air was what was needed."

    Lastly, Barnes didn't come across very well at yesterday's presser. He was defensive and annoyed. Stallings, on the other hand, did pretty well IMO. He was likeable and sincere. He could have been a little better prepared to answer some questions but overall not bad. I still don't like the hire. But I can't blame Stallings for taking the job.

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    1. Nice summary of what I think of it all.
      I differ on the second to last statement in that I am now in the camp of I like the hire which is up from the "really" camp I was in. If anything happens positively with Kithcart and Manigault in them staying and/or another very good recruit within the next month or 2, I am looking forward to the next few years with THIS new coach.

      Good luck to JD, it will be interesting to see what he can do at TCU.

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    2. I'm warming up to the hire as well. I've actually been pretty impressed with Stallings so far. He's been very personable and sincere in the interviews I've listened to. Plus, I'm really glad that Manigault is sticking with Pitt. Let's hope Kithcart does as well...he's a nice talent.

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  24. Chris, You & other people say Pitt is not that attractive of a job, but how does Virginia Tech get Buzz Williams? They have no winning past yet they get a guy who definitely energizes the program. I wish we had Buzz Williams.

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    1. Buzz was desperate. Marquette was squeezing him and he wanted out quick. VT was the best opening at that moment. To be honest, if Pitt was the main one open at that time he may very well have taken it.

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  25. Chris, Very good commentary on the the evennts and expectations. I for one was naive' enough to believe Barns was actually going bring in the young up-an commer that he talked about and because that I was upset. Now I have noting against Kevin Stallings and after some time I realize he's a pretty decent coach. Barns on the other hand, better be careful with what he promises us, or his future here will be as rocky as the press conference.

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  26. Why didn't Pitt go after Buzz? Personally wanted to see Danny Hurley.
    Stallinngs will be fired in 3 years.

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  27. Why wouldn't a few of these mid-major guys not want to come to Pitt? It would seem a nice salary jump and recognition for a bigger job in the future. Is it so hard to win at Pitt that only desparate coaches would have interest?

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    1. Mid-major coaches can make a lot of money now and they aren't going to leave for just anywhere. They can afford to wait for the perfect fit.

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  28. Is it possible that the new administration has turned the focus and resources from basketball to football. In the past, many were critical calling us a basketball school with limited focus on the football program. Is this hire evidence that the resources are now directed at football?

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    1. Like almost all schools that play major college football, football has always come first at Pitt. That's where they can make the most money.

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  29. I think people may be discounting the ability to recruit to Vanderbilt a bit too much. Yes the pool of potential players is smaller, but so is the pool of competition for those players. Every year there are a few high-level recruits that come from elite prep schools around the country. Those schools come with connections to elite academic universities, and there are only a few of them that offer that unique experience (and opportunities after graduation) for both academics and athletics. I'd be willing to bet that most of the players that Stallings coached at Vanderbilt were only choosing between it, Stanford, Harvard (under Amaker), and Duke (though Duke is now in the business of one-and-dones, so not sure how much that matters). Maybe a few other schools. But the competition for elite players that are not going to qualify academically at those schools would appear to be much more dynamic and intense, since there are about 300 options for those players.

    I hang a Pitt degree on my wall, but as proud as I am of that, even I know there is nearly zero chance that Pitt would have at flipping one of Stallings' current recruits to Vandy; because those kids are going there in large part, to punch their tickets after their careers. It's just reality.

    Still, basketball is a guard-oriented sport, and I'm hopeful Stallings is able to get high-level talent at the guard position. I'm just not sold on his recruiting ability and how it translates to Pitt.

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    1. Just because a kid is smart enough for those schools, doesn't mean that's the only type of schools they're looking at. It's not like they think, "I'm smart so I have to go to Vanderbilt, Harvard, or Stanford." Excellent students go to non-elite academic schools too.

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    2. Pitt is not chopped liver when it comes to academics. One of the harder State funded schools to get into even for regular students.

      Hell - didn't Pitt turn and land a local quarterback who had an Ivy League Scholarship (Academic)recently?

      Pitt has a much greater chance of getting a bid, much less going deep in the NCAA's year after year then Vandy. Even some brainy kids dream of a Final Four or a D1 championship ring - though not Duke or Kentucky or UNC or Kansas - it is a real though slim possibility to fulfill that dream at Pitt.

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  30. I know first hand of a player who got into a top of the Ivy school with less than 1000 SAT (math-verbal). He did have over 500 verbal so they were confidant he could make it as long as STEM courses were avoided/minimized.

    So anyone who can read well enough to handle college work can probably get in anywhere.

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  31. Chris, I'd like you to explain what you meant by this statement: "...Pitt does have a lot more going for it than most programs around the nation, but it doesn't have everything it takes to win big."

    Can you expound on that? We're not Kentucky or Kansas, and maybe I'm glad about that on some levels. But we have a top university with great facilities, good coaches, and we play in a (normally) rockin' (usually) full house in the marquee hoops conference in America, in an amazing city.

    What am I missing that Pitt's missing? To me, that seems like everything we need to win big. Frankly, I'm not sure what more a guy could want...

    Thanks in advance.

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    1. A lack of a lot of top prospects in the area and a huge brand are two big weaknesses. Let's be honest- if Kansas, Duke, UNC, UCLA, Louisville, and Pitt all call a kid and say they want to come visit, Pitt already lost. When you're an elite program you always have a chance because of how you're perceived in the basketball world. Pitt will excite kids but not like the blue blood programs will excite them.

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    2. Hi Chris,

      Granted, if that hypothetical phone call been made by Jamie Dixon within the past five years, then yes he may as well have saved his quarter from the pay phone. But that’s just a snapshot in time, and may not be a fair comparison.

      A few years ago, when he was still beat writer for the football team, Paul Zeise made pretty much the identical statement during a chat, and I asked him the identical question: what are we missing? He gave pretty much the identical response, except in addition he also mentioned Pitt’s facilities (and of course contrasted us with the Bugeyes and Nits instead of Louisville and UCLA). Pushing back, I felt the facilities and other factors were definitely good enough … they were (still are) NFL facilities, for Pete’s sake!

      Now, under Potato Paul it was pretty much self-fulfilling prophesy, because with all due respect Chryst & Company were lazy recruiters. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that his “just offer” approach was just a shorter and more polite way of saying “Hey, if you insist to come here, we won’t stop you.” Man, I was frustrated with that guy, from Day One!

      Point being, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those that can sell and those who can’t. Fast forward a few years, and without doing much if anything to improve its football situation, Pitt seems to be back in favor with recruits. Why? Because we hired a guy -- Narduzzi -- who gets it and can sell. Wanny and Graham had no problems getting blue-chippers interested in the program because they too could sell. Potato Paul, not so much.

      Back to hoops: For all his many fine qualities -- and I don’t think he’s lazy at recruiting, ala Chryst -- but (to be kind) Jamie Dixon simply isn’t much of a salesman either. On the other hand, based on early returns? Stalling just might be. And if he is, it could be easier to sell the hoops program than football because everything is right there (as opposed to having to go over to the South Side or downtown to play football, etc.).

      But back to my original question, I don’t think we’re missing anything we need except someone able to sell the program and then maximize what we have to offer. Personally, I wanted Enfield (well, Sean Miller THEN Enfield). But here’s hoping that Stalling catches the vision then sells it too.

      Time will tell.

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  32. Chris I agree with what you are saying. My grandson plays high school bb and has a few offers from D-II schools. He has grown up in the Pitt shadow and wears all the Pitt gear. We talk alot and although he would love to play at Pitt, if NC, Duke, Louisville would offer along with Pitt, he would choose the latter. To him and many of his friends, its the mystic of playing for coach K et al. Pitt just can't match that especially when the pool is so small compared to football.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pool for basketball is much bigger than football in the metro areas. And not every good even great player can play for
      Duke, Ky, Kansas, NC and who ever else the kids think is great.

      That is why you need great recruiting. Who wants to play for Wichtia State?

      Delete
  33. Chris, any word on Knight?

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  34. Chris, why are you son negative on PITT basketball's national image? You spoke to coaches over the years and I bet at one was the Miller's father. Your comments sound like his voice.

    I don't think the majority of the old Big East or old Atlantic Ten coaches would agree with your statements.

    Tell me what you think the Syracuse coaches would say?

    Your too provincial in your thinking about PITT and basketball. We have had more recent success with basketball since Roy Chipman than with football.

    Even in Spokane, WA., they tink of PITT as a basketball school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miller's dad is not a college coach, nobody thinks Pitt is a basketball school, and it's not one of the elite schools for basketball. It's better than most, and it's definitely a good program, but it's not one of the excellent programs.

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    2. There's only so many excellent programs, so no shame that Pitt isn't one of them. Some of these excellent programs could be in trouble with its coaches very long in the tooth. Finding another great coach will difficult.

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    3. It could be a matter of semantics, but I'd say Pitt is certainly an excellent program. Just not one of the ten or so elite programs.

      I'd say the ELITE programs include only Kansas and Kentucky, Duke and UNC, Indiana and Michigan State for certain. Then maybe / arguably: 'Cuse, and UCLA but not right now. Maybe Florida but not this year. Maybe (maybe not) Arizona, Michigan and Ohio State. Villanova until Jay Wright leaves. Did I miss anyone?

      I'd say Pitt is the next level down with 100+ other schools.

      Delete
    4. Amen brother!!

      Delete
    5. Oh, I forgot Louisville. At least until they get sanctioned back to the Stone Age from Hooker-gate.

      Delete
  35. Any news on Knight staying on as an assistant? I thought he was supposed to decide last night?

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  36. You say Pitt is on the next level down with 100+ other schools. I certainly wouldn't label that as excellent. Good to very good maybe, but not excellent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pitt's average end of season Sagarin ranking for the 13 years of Dixon is #21. That hardly puts them on a par with the next 100+ programs,IMO. It puts them near the very top of the 2nd tier below the blue bloods.

      Delete
  37. Chris, any comment on the article in the Trib today by John Harris? The subject was Knight's recruiting ability vs Dixon's closing skill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Knight is somehow reaching mythological status for some reason. And while we know that Dixon isn't a great closer there was no reason to dump on him like that. It was a very poor article by a very poor sports reporter.

      Delete
  38. With Stallings retaining all three committed recruits in this year's class, I would say things are taking a turn for the better. Knight leaving is probably best for all parties concerned. I wish him the best. Hopefully he lands on his feet somewhere. Still pissed at Barnes but Stallings seems to be making the right moves. I will be interested to see who he gets to round out the rest of his staff.

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  39. it is what it is folks. stallings is the guy. I do think if the pitt job would have still been open then Buzz would have gotten it over stallings. but that's neither here nor there. have to give stallings a fair shot to make this work. if not then he is out and the process begins again. if he does then all of this uproar will have been for naught. I am hoping he succeeds as I am a pitt fan through and through and nothing would make me happier. only time will tell

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  40. Chris, if all three recruits stay, how many scholarships does have left. If any are left, what is their most important need? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the entire roster comes back they have one. And they'll probably look for a graduate transfer point guard or center. But there's still a chance that another player or two leaves.

      Delete
  41. Dokes, I understand that Brandon Knight wasn't even afforded an interview for head coach. Why didn't Knight go with Dixon? Did Dixon even offer him a job like Stallings did?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He interviewed with Pitt. Dixon has no use for him in Texas.

      Delete
    2. Did Dixon take any of his staff

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  42. Chris, is Brandin Knight ready to be a head coach in your opinion? Maybe at some low-major program? Or does he still need more seasoning and variety as an assistant first?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, he's not as revered in coaching circles as he has been among Pitt fans in the last week.

      Delete
  43. Chris - I find your comments counterintuitive with respect to Stallings and keeping the recruits. Was he brought in to increase the level of recruiting or maintain the status quo?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think he'll recruit better but obviously he had no time to do that this year. The '17 class will tell a lot more.

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  44. Lots of tackles made by the secondary in today's football scrimmage. That's not good. The front seven is a major concern on defense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They had 10 sacks today. Dewayne Hendrix had 4.5 all by himself.

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  45. I'm hearing the coaches are very very concerned about the WR position. To the point where they think it could kill any hopes of a decent season.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who will the top WR's be? Ford, Tipton, Henderson? could George hill play WR?

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    2. The position looks scary and hopefully one freshman can step in and deliver. If not, Pitt is going to have to win with some old fashion ground and pound. The O-line and running back position certainly have the players to get it done that way.

      TR

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    3. You can't win by being one dimensional. Defenses will take that away from you. Pitt will need to develop WR's in order to have an effective passing game.

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    4. We have Tipton, Weah and Henderson who according to the coaching staff have all been very impressive during Spring ball.

      Ford as the possession receiver.

      Plus 4 star WR Flowers coming in.

      And, with the addition of Hendrix off the edge - Hamlin probably starting opposite Maddox at the corner - Price and Jarrett back...

      Whitehead at safety.

      2 of the 3 LB's back...

      A great stable of running backs.
      Better O-Line than last year.

      "Kill any hopes of a decent season."

      Yeah, we should really suck this year.

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    5. ZM - I'm with you. Hopefully injuries don't derail us. Pitt should be able to have a decent WR corps.

      Delete
  46. Villanova was 13-19 in 2012. Jay Wright was still able to recruit great players and 4 years later he's won a national title. Is it that much easier to recruit at a small private Catholic university located in the affluent suburbs of Philadelphia?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was no excuse for Pitt to not capitalize on its success last decade. Being on TV all the time, playing in big games seemingly all the time -- it was free publicity with ESPN announcers gushing over the program and Jamie Dixon.

      Sad, but I'm use to it as a fan. The 1990s could have been pretty damn good for football had the administrators allowed it and Gottfried was never fired. Tough schedules would have made it difficult to attain a championship. Had the 90s been full of 7-8-9 win teams, Pitt as a football program overall would look completely different. We’d be talking about having winning teams for the most part since 1973 with the bumpiness of 2010-14 though that may have been altered.

      TR

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  47. As our QB luck would have it, Alex Hornibrook is listed as 2nd team on the Wisconsin Depth Chart as a RS Freshman. Chryst recruits 3 QB's at Pitt & the only good one he takes to Wisconsin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wisconsin has zero experience and no depth at QB.

      Does that sound familiar?

      There won't be a high school QB recruited by Chryst at Pitt who will play meaningful minute.

      Think about that for a moment.

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  48. Does anyone know if the Stallings hire of Richardson and now Jeremy Ballard are official? Nothing seems to come out of Pitt to confirm these hires?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It depends on what you mean by official. Pitt hasn't announced it but usually they try to announce them all at once. But they have been hired.

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  49. Is Stallings assistants filled now?

    ReplyDelete
  50. What's Ballard like? Is he a good hire?

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  51. how does Pitt end up with Stallings and Vandy lands Bryce Drew?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bryce Drew has done nothing in major college basketball yet. Let's see if he actually succeeds first before saying he's better than a guy that's been to two Sweet 16s and was two time SEC coach of the year.

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    2. Thanks, Doke, for putting this in some much-needed perspective.

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  52. Chris - I feel like you're really coming around on Stallings after initially hating the hire. Not sure if you came out and exactly said this during the search, but a couple weeks ago you implied that Drew would be a guy you'd be very excited to get, and you also said that Stallings was the exact opposite of what Pitt needed.

    What has caused you to come around so quickly? The fact that it seems like no players are leaving? The way he handled himself in the press conference? I mean, I think the guy deserves a chance and I never saw what was so terrible about him to begin with but I'm afraid to get too excited about a guy who just 2 weeks ago everyone thought was a terrible hire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I literally explained all of my thoughts on the subject in the above post. He's a very good coach that may do very well. It wouldn't surprise me. I was only upset at first because it seemed like Barnes was not being genuine.

      Delete
  53. Doke, what are your thoughts on the bball staff, now that the hiring are complete? How would you rate the staff compared to Dixon's staff? How competitive of a staff is this for the ACC?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will write something up early next week.

      Delete
  54. I too am curious about Doc's inquiry above. Also, any football news/hunches? We need info! Great work, especially for us non-Twitter types.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Chris -
    Love to get an update on football and basketball prospects to keep an eye on over the next few months.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's too early for basketball. I'm not sure they even know who they're looking at yet. I will do something for football maybe next week since recruiting will pick up a little soon.

      Delete
  56. 8k for the spring game isn't too bad considering the pens, Pirates, bigelow bash for Pitt students, and the relay for life all going on. Truly excited for next season. I do believe the fan base is growing.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Chris,

    I am excited that Pitt is in on top kids from around the country in terms of football recruiting. I am disappointed to see so many of the big time WPIAL talent committing elsewhere. What is your take on this?

    Thanks
    Reel Big Fish

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It always bums me out. I can see some kids wanting an experience that's different from what they've known but it's discouraging that so many don't want to stay home and represent for their own people.

      Delete
  58. Just a random thought: if the Pitt coaching staff wants to infuse some energy heading into the 4th qtr, has anyone considered bagging the 'hum-drum, yet nostalgic' Sweet Caroline and actually playing something WITH ENERGY? At this point, it is just a gimmick song for merchandising and does nothing to energize the players and many fans (not all). I am a middle-aged fan who grew up listening to Neil Diamond, but really don't think his music belongs in a football stadium to energize the players and fans, if it did, the steelers would probably quit playing Renegade but I don't see that happening any time soon. Many will argue that 'it is a tradition', but in the 70's and 80's (when Neil Diamond's music was current and popular) the Pitt teams played just fine without it, in fact, very well. Can we at least agree that songs like, the much overplayed, 'Crazy Train' by Ozzy, or 'Kick-Start My Heart' by Motley Crue, or 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC, it many others similar to them would at least provide more ENERGY heading into the grueling 4th qtr?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait, you mean play the songs that they and everybody already play, that no one responds to?

      Sweet Caroline is one of the few times the crowd breaks into a Let's Go Pitt chant. Especially cool when the band does it on the road.

      But, they do do that 4th quarter water thing, which reminds me of the gas station battle in Zoolander, but that's just me.

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  59. Chris, I heard Stallings offered a big time prospect but I can't find anything on it. Can you verify this and let us know who it is and is it really a big time recruit. Thanks

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    Replies
    1. 6'8" PF Aamir Simms. He's from VA, he's a borderline top 100 prospect, and he's close with new Pitt assistant Kevin Sutton who recruited him while at Georgetown.

      Delete
  60. Chris,

    Still waiting on your "early next week" updates you mentioned on the 14th.

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  61. Will never forget the day triple h and Chyna came into my store in moon twp they were on top it was 1995.They came back the next year gave my manager ticket to the show.life short enjoy it to the fullish.

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  62. Chris what your take on Bama coming up to PA and Ohio and making all these offers and there there not all big time??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The days of schools being selective are apparently over. Now they all throw a wide net. Every time Alabama offers a Pitt target I see a lot of Pitt fans think it's over for that kid, which is ridiculous. Like everyone else Alabama will get about 20-25% of the kids they offer because they wouldn't have room for all of the kids they offer.

      Delete
  63. I know it's a slow time but throw us a bone buddy!

    ReplyDelete