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Kevin Stallings not convinced Pitt basketball players buying in

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt's basketball season has seemed to many of us that it is spiraling out of control. While head coach Kevin Stallings didn't quite say that, if you listened to his recent comments, you have to wonder if this is a team he's on the verge of losing.

Or worse yet - one he's already lost.

Craig Meyer of the Post-Gazette has a fascinating article on recent comments from the Panthers' coach. Stallings, who speaks pretty candidly as it is, didn't hold much back in recent comments to the press. Aside from the freedom on offense, the head coach isn't convinced the team has fully bought in to what he's trying to do.

“Right now, my assessment is the only thing it feels like they’ve bought into 100 percent is freedom on offense,” Stallings said Monday. “Well, anybody could buy into that. That’s not a hard thing to buy into. That’s just human nature. Of course I would like to have freedom on offense. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we have to play defensively. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we need to communicate, the way we need to support each other, the way we have to fight when adversity hits. I haven’t been able to get them to do a number of other things yet the way they have to be done with what we have, with the makeup of our team in this league. That part has been a little frustrating.”

Of particular interest is that the media weren't even the ones that spurred this on. As Meyer notes, he made the comments unprompted. Ouch. To say this has probably been on his mind a lot is likely the understatement of the year.

And while the bulk of the guys playing right now are upperclassmen, Stallings made a point to not let them off the hook. In his words, he thinks they could be doing more in terms of providing leadership.

“The idea in any program is the older guys — especially if they’re the better ones, which they are in our program right now — reach out to their teammates and help bring those guys along and help make those guys better. That part has been a little bit of a disappointment because there’s not a ton of that that goes on. You talk to guys about being more outward and making guys better. That’s just not in their nature. It’s not how they’ve been used to doing things, apparently.”

Double ouch.

Now, as Meyer notes, Stallings isn't completely calling the leadership crummy. Meyer says it's more of the players being a bit more introverted and not vocal leaders. Still, I don't think a comment like that gets made if he feels they are doing all they could do in that department.

One thing no one can accuse Stallings of is not being a straight shooter. And the comments also put some perspective on how much of the recent struggles are on him. By Stallings' account, the players simply aren't listening to him and/or working as hard as he needs them.

While he does have talented players, there's something to be said for that. It doesn't all end with athletic ability and Pitt fans know that better than just about anyone as Jamie Dixon milked his less-talented teams for all they were worth. I think a lot of fans realize that Stallings should have the ability to recruit his own guys and this all sort of underscores that. There's no doubt that this year's group isn't playing as well as they could be but I also see the side from Stallings that says he needs time to bring in his own guys that will, presumably, listen to him a bit more closely.

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