Kevin Stallings

AP Photo/Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds

Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”

 

Knee injury sidelines Vanderbilt’s Luke Kornet

Associated Press
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Just before their game against Dayton Wednesday night, the Vanderbilt basketball program announced that they’ll be without one of their starting big men for the next four to six weeks.

Junior Luke Kornet has been ruled out after he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee in practice earlier this week. With the announced timetable the Commodores will have begun SEC play when Kornet is able to return to the lineup.

Alongside fellow junior Damian Jones, Kornet is a big man capable of stepping away from the basket in order to help with the Commodores’ spacing on the offensive end. Kornet’s currently third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding with averages of 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The 7-foot-1 Kornet currently leads Vanderbilt in blocked shots, averaging 2.8 per contest.

Without Kornet, Jeff Roberson and Josh Henderson stand to see their playing time increase, and freshman Semir Sehic (8.3 mpg) may also be able to earn more opportunities. Vanderbilt has depth inside, which will help them account for the loss of Kornet as the start of SEC play approaches.

Freshman guard Shelton Mitchell to leave Vanderbilt program

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Vanderbilt went with a youth movement of sorts this season with a host of underclassmen going through what amounted to a “trial by fire” under head coach Kevin Stallings, and that’s expected to benefit the Commodores over the long haul.

One player who won’t be around to see the rebuilding process out is point guard Shelton Mitchell, who has decided to transfer. The news was announced by the Vanderbilt program Thursday morning, and Mitchell will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 campaign at the school of his choosing.

“I have decided to transfer from Vanderbilt for personal reasons,” Mitchell said in the release. “I loved my basketball experience at Vanderbilt playing for Coach Stallings and his staff and with a great group of guys we have on this team.  

“However, I feel it is in my best interests to continue my college education elsewhere. I want to thank Coach, the fans, and my teammates for the support they’ve given me during my stay at Vanderbilt.”

Mitchell started 11 of the 31 games in which he played in 2014-15, averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 assists in 20 minutes of action per contest. He was one of three guards utilized by Stallings in the role of playmaker, with classmates Wade Baldwin IV and Riley LaChance being the others (and LaChance was the team’s best perimeter shooter).

Those two return in 2015-16, as does classmate Matthew Fisher-Davis, and the Commodores add two more guards in freshman Camron Justice and Cornell transfer Nolan Cressler. Cressler averaged 16.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 2013-14 at Cornell. Given their perimeter depth Vanderbilt will be able to absorb the loss of Mitchell, and their deep front court led by rising junior Damian Jones makes the Commodores a possible Top 25 team in 2015-16.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings will not be suspended

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Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings berated freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV on Thursday night for an unsportsmanlike act in the closing seconds of the Commodores’ 73-65 win over Tennessee.

Stallings was caught on camera saying, “I’ll f***ing kill you.” Stallings was quick to apologize to Baldwin following the incident.

On Friday afternoon, the university decided it would not suspend its head basketball coach, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

“After the game, an incident occurred in which I need to apologize for,” Stallings said on Thursday night following the incident. “One of our players acted inappropriately and violated what we believe is good sportsmanship following the game,” Stallings said following the game.

“In my haste to resolve the situation, I made a very inappropriate comment. While obviously it was not meant literally, it was still inappropriate. I apologized to the player immediately following the game, although displaying good sportsmanship is of the highest priority in our program.”

Baldwin was seen clapping in Amani Moore’s face as Moore was walking to the Tennessee bench. Irritated by the gesture, a Tennessee assistant coach alerted Stallings in the postgame handshake line to what had transpired moments earlier.

“Wade’s got some things to learn, some growing up to do if he’s going to play in this program,” Stallings said via David Cobb of Knoxville News Sentinel. One of their assistants said he went and clapped in one of their players faces after the game. We will not do that, not get by with that. We believe in sportsmanship, and that’s not part of who we are, who we’re going to be. He better understand that’s his one and it better never happen again.”

Baldwin posted on Twitter that he took no offense from the incident.

Vanderbilt hosts Alabama on Saturday evening.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings apologizes for postgame outburst directed at freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV

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Following his team’s 73-65 win at Tennessee Thursday night, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings issued an apology for the words he directed at freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV in the postgame handshake line.

“After the game, an incident occurred in which I need to apologize for. One of our players acted inappropriately and violated what we believe is good sportsmanship following the game,” Stallings said following the game.

“In my haste to resolve the situation, I made a very inappropriate comment. While obviously it was not meant literally, it was still inappropriate. I apologized to the player immediately following the game, although displaying good sportsmanship is of the highest priority in our program.”

As the two teams were leaving the floor and joining the handshake line Baldwin clapped his hands and taunted Tennessee’s Armani Moore. In the line a Tennessee assistant told Stallings of his player’s actions, and it’s safe to say that the head coach was none too pleased with Baldwin. Stallings pulled the guard out of the handshake line and demanded he apologize to Moore, and that wasn’t all he had to say either.

Below is a video clip of the sequence (video credit: ESPN).

The words Stallings apologized for was his exclamation of “I’ll ****ing kill you” as he and Baldwin were walking through the remainder of the handshake line. On his Twitter account, Baldwin stated that he “felt no offense” to anything his coach said on the court.

Vanderbilt has three players dealing with concussions

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source: AP
(AP)

Vanderbilt is dealing with a number of head injuries as three players on the roster currently deal with concussions issues. According to a report from Adam Sparks of The Tennessean, senior Shelby Moats and freshmen Shelton Mitchell and Jeff Roberson all have issues with concussions to varying degrees.

Since Moats is a senior, his career is in jeopardy, according to head coach Kevin Stallings, while Mitchell and Roberson are going through limited practices and could return soon.

“Shelby does not look anywhere close to being back, and he may miss the rest of the season,” Stallings said to Sparks. “Jeff and Shelton are both close at this juncture, provided there are no setbacks. I think there’s a concern, particularly on Shelby’s part. With this being the second one, he is a little bit leery of it happening again.

“Everyone is much more sensitive to the concussion issue right now. As coaches, we joke around and say, ‘We used to call it a headache, and now they call it a concussion.’ But I made a deal a long time ago with the training staff: I don’t try to tell them about injuries, and they don’t try to tell me about basketball.”

Moats is a 6-foot-8 senior forward who has appeared in nine games this season, averaging only 4.2 minutes per game.

Mitchell is a 6-foot-3 guard and has appeared in 22 games and averages 4.6 points and 3.6 assists per game. Roberson is a 6-foot-6 forward averaging 20.5 minutes, 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.