I predicted a week ago on my Pitt Panthers Weekly show Presented by The Arsenal Cider House, that the Panthers would get their first win at home against Syracuse. They started the week with a close game against NC State where they NEARLY pulled the upset. That was followed up by a game against Syracuse that looked like their first bout. Pitt was close throughout, but the Orange went on a small run down the stretch and the Panthers just could not ipush back. Although the losses continue to be disappointing, what is not, is the fact that Pitt is learning how to hang with more expereince teams. That is an important step in their maturation.
That last statement, would probably be followed up by questions like who is Syracuse and NC State this season? NC State just upset North Carolina on the road and has been fairly strong all season long. And the Orange are young also, but have some very key returning players that allow them to close out games when they need it. This recent run for the Panthers has shown that they are learning to play better defense, and trying to right the ship on offense.
We continue to hear the fan base speak out on Coach Stallings and which went a step further as he was booed during the game yesterday. I am not sure what booing or even going as far as firing Coach Stallings does for this program. And oh by the way, as a fan base it is okay to be frustrated, but Those boo’s are not only not needed, but they are not deserved. I’ll tell you why.
What you are seeing this season was going to happen. Regardless who took over. The previous group of coaches did a lousy job recruiting, and not just recruiting but recruiting point guards. After James Robinson, their were no alternatives. On top of that, the Panthers Roster was stacked with a group of players that did not push to play at their highest level, not even for Coach Dixon while they were here. They were largely a talented group of underachievers that did not work as hard as they needed to.
This season, they have some talent but it’s extremely young. They have no impactful returning players that are playing during conference play. They have Eleven new players that needed a season to…. well…. season and grow together. So this year, was going to be a rebuilding year, one that just had to happen. It was unfortunate though that it came in year 2 of the coaches stint. And those that say Did if have to happen? The answer to that is yes.
Dixon left for what is not a better job, but a better situation for him. He knew what he had returning and He also knew that if he went back to his Alma Matre that he would go into a situation the fan base just wanted to get better. Limited expectations is what Jamie Dixon excels under.
Making a Bad Situation Worse:
What makes this situation even more toxic is the fact that the former Athletic director did himself no favors by not conveying to the fan base what they were looking for in a coach. And no, I am not saying he needed to come out and tell everyone who he was looking for, but he needed to have made it more clear what they were in fact looking for. For the first hire after that successful run with Howland and Dixon, that had to happen.
Instead, the fans formed their own thoughts that Pitt was either going to get Sean Miller to dump a dream job to come home or some young up and comer that was going to have Pitt turn back into what the fan base perceived to be a National Power in Basketball.
That could have in fact happened if one of those coaches wanted to follow Jamie Dixon. From what I have heard from digging around, they did not generate a ton of interest from many of those supposed up and coming coaches that the fan base were hoping for. And Sean Miller nor his brother Archie were ever going to come back here to coach. That left the Much Maligned Scott Barnes to go after an established coach with SOME Pedigree. (And by no means am I sticking up for Barnes, because he was in fact disastrous for Pitt. But not with this hire.)
Then, the New coach was announced, and it was not at all what the fan base thought they would get. All they could do is be disappointed in the choice, and the media did their very best to feed that beast just as much as they could.
Is Change Needed?
A new coach should get 4-5 years to recruit, build, and get results. If it does not happen in that time period, by all means part ways. But if Current AD Heather Lyke were to pull the trigger now, it would once against set the program back even farther.
I heard Josh Taylor this morning on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh ask the listeners if after two years now, it is time to part ways because of the results. I would like to answer that Josh with an emphatic NO!
The Future Could be Brighter Than you Think.
Let the coach do what he needs to do and recruit. He is adding major pieces next season including Bryce Golden, a talented 6-9 forward out of Maryland, and Danya Kingsby, the No. 2 JUCO combo guard in the country. Pitt will also gets highly touted Malik Ellison, who had to sit out because of the NCAA and their goofy Transfer rules. Add in a healthy Ryan Luther, and this team looks a lot different.
Especially when you consider these current players are getting valuable experience now and will have a full season of playing in the ACC under their belt. This year, they had no one on the team to fall back on when they played the best teams in this league. Next year, they will have reinforcements and know what to expect.
I am in no way predicting a National Championship Team. But this is talented enough group that they could return to 20+ wins next season. And that will in fact be the turnaround and positivity the Program needs.
What the program also needs now, is less negativity and more support. Will it come from this fan base? Likely not. Will it come from the media? If you pick up the paper or follow twitter, it already has. It’s tough though to put the ketchup back int he ketchup bottle.
Living in a society where people belive they deserve to root for winners, and immediate satisfaction with everything they do, makes for a tough crowd. Combine that with the fact that this fan base believes they DESERVE a Basketball Program that wins every year like the Blue Blood Programs such as Duke. When you step back and consider that, it actually sounds nearly as ridiculous as it does reading it.
Talk about setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.
Predicting the Future of the Coaching Staff
My crystal ball is currently broken so predicting the future of Kevin Stallings is not easy. I will say this, if the Fan Base gets what they want and they do let Kevin Stallings go, they may, in the end want to watch what you wish for. Sometimes, the greatest gifts come from unanswered prayers.
I believe in this case, the University needs to stay the course and give Coach his 4-5 years. In my opinion, they will be in a better place 4 or 5 years then they were with the group of kids they had when Kevin took over. And in the end, that will result in winning which is all anyone wants.