PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan)- The Pitt Panthers basketball team is under a new direction this year for the first time in 13 years after Jamie Dixon’s departure.
In steps, Kevin Stallings, fresh off a 17-year stint with Vanderbilt in which he compiled a 332-220 record (.601 winning percentage) is trying to lead the Panthers to continued success.
Stallings saw his team’s first real game action last Friday, when Pitt defeated Eastern Michigan 93-90 in double overtime. Pitt played again on Monday and beat Gardner-Webb at home 99-80. Despite the blowout win, Stallings was not happy with his team’s attitude during the game.
Stallings joined “The Fan Morning Show” on Wednesday in his weekly spot to discuss this and many other topics.
“It all had to do with body language,” said Stallings. “It had to do with we were somewhat disinterested unless there was something to hold our interest. Which means, for me, if we had the ball, or if we were about to get the ball then we were okay in terms of our excitement, but defensively we weren’t engaged, we weren’t committed. And I just didn’t like our body language, I didn’t like our look. I thought that it showed up on the defensive end, you know, if you look at the numbers they were terrible. I thought it showed up in our turnovers because when you’re only part-way engaged, then what’s going to happen is some things are going to go okay, but everything is not going to go well.”
Stallings made sure to bring up the concerns that he had following the game to his players and they responded by practicing very well and recognizing their mistakes.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased with our response yesterday [Tuesday],” said Stallings. “Honestly, I was quite concerned and I voiced those concerns after the game. At least for one day after, we responded better than I even hoped that we would and hopefully that can be sustained.”
“The best case scenario happened, and that is, I brought it to their attention after the game, we showed them some film of what we were talking about prior to practice yesterday and they saw it and they responded. The film was shown and no voices were raised and no ugly things were said, we just showed them the film and said, ‘This is what we saw, now we hope that you can see it.’ And it was ugly, it was ugly. I think that they bought it, they did. Their response couldn’t have been better which really, really made me happy.”
Stallings is still learning about the personalities on the Pitt roster that he inherited, but said he has gained a good sense of what he can and cannot say to certain players.
“Like any team, we have some guys that are more sensitive to criticism,” Stallings said. “And I’m always careful with that in two ways. I’m careful with the guys that are sensitive to it, but I’m also careful that if any of those guys are some of your best players, then I always think that you have to fight through that with them because the rest of the guys can’t look at you treating your best players in a different way because their sense of criticism or because they’ve never been yelled at or never been told that they’re wrong. But, I try to find a good balance and I think I’ve found a good balance so far with these guys.”
Stallings also gave his insight on SMU, Pitt’s next matchup that will take place on Friday. The Mustangs are coming off a 91-64 victory over the same Eastern Michigan team that Pitt opened play against, and a 72-44 victory last Friday against Gardner-Webb.
“I think our team and SMU’s team is a lot alike,” said Stallings. “Their point guard is 6-feet-6-inches they kind of play point guard by committee like we do, they have very skilled guys, they might be a little bit more athletic than we are, we might be a little bit more physical than they are. But, they are two teams that are built very much the same and so if we can play defensively the way I hope that we can, it should be a great game.”
You can check out the full interview with Kevin Stallings on “The Fan Morning Show” below.