I had a ridiculously late night last night since I somehow thought it was a great idea to watch the Matrix Trilogy and not start until around 8:30 p.m. Understandably, I got up late and when I noticed the swarm of comments in one of the Kevin Stallings posts above, I figured either something big happened or the comments were merely spiraling out of control again.
I hoped it was the latter but indeed it was the former.
One of Pitt's two real salvageable pieces from last year's basketball team still left, Cameron Johnson, has decided to transfer. I wrote an article recently about Pitt returning next to nothing in terms of production. You may as well blow that up and start over because that's exactly what Kevin Stallings is doing now.
The Justice Kithcart loss was surprising but most fans will back the coach up on disciplinary matters when you're dealing with non-impact guys. The Crisshawn Clark transfer, given his injuries, sort of hurt but most were nonplussed by it since it was a guy that had never played. Damon Wilson's transfer didn't raise too many eyebrows since he hadn't contributed much while here in two years. Corey Manigault's was the most troublesome to me since he was a true freshman and you wonder if he was capable of bigger things as a reasonably touted recruit. But even then, you weren't dealing with a bonafide star or even a player that was a decent contributor last season. The loss of Johnson, though, should raise eyebrows.
So why exactly is Cam leaving? It turns out that he, like many of us, has no idea what the next two years will bring.
Cam Johnson's father cited the uncertainty facing Pitt next season, with at least seven new players, as the main reason for the transfer.— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) April 1, 2017
Ordinarily, you might not be real thrilled with players that are bailing on a team just because they might not be very good. But Cam was also signed to play a different coach. He's not only now playing for a new coach but the entire makeup of the team has changed, too. I have a hard problem being too upset with him.
Cam had a breakout year this season, averaging 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. With all that Pitt lost, a jump to at least 15 points per contest seemed reasonable and even a jump in production closer to 20 points a game wouldn't be too surprising. He was the only starter from last year returning and looked poised for a big season.
To me, the loss hurts more in terms of potential relationship problems between Stallings and his players than it does how Pitt will fare in the win-loss category next year.
Looking at the second of those two first, Pitt was likely headed for a rough season, anyway - with Cam or without him. This isn't taking a 25-win team and dropping them down to a 15-win team. It was hard to imagine Pitt being a good team even with Cam here. What was hoped, though, is that in two years, we might see some sort of turnaround. Without Cam, that makes that harder to believe in.
If Pitt only had Cam left for one more year, it would still be a difficult pill to swallow. But the blow would be somewhat lessened because no one expects Pitt to do much next year, anyway. But Pitt's rebuilding project without him looks to be at least a three-year situation right now. Maybe that changes, of course. Perhaps the players coming in do more than expected. But if you look at the roster right now and have to make an educated guess where Pitt is going to be in two years, it's extremely difficult to feel very optimistic right now.
Stallings could justify the other departures as players that, perhaps, he didn't think were talented enough to be here. Whether that's right or wrong, he could point to their production, how he used them, and provide his reasoning that he thought the Panthers needed more talent in their place. That case, of course, can't be made for Cam. He was a starter this year, played a lot of minutes, and was the top returning player next season by far.
This, if nothing else, looks bad. And while that might not sound like a problem, that it looks bad to incoming recruits is a bad situation. How, after all, does Stallings get additional top players if he is unable to hold onto the ones he already has? And again, Stallings could justify the departures of other guys to some extent but how do you justify the loss of your best player. One that was also a model student, had a 3.9 GPA, and will be graduating this month, by the way?
As I've said with any coach, they have the right to run a program in the manner they see fit. But this ... all of it ... is just a tough sell right now, folks.