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.”