With a 16-17 record last year, new Pitt basketball coach Kevin Stallings had a bad season. Unfortunately, so far, he's having an even worse offseason.
Many fans blamed Stallings for a rough year and figured the team should have been more competitive. Some wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to rebuild. Problem is, that he's having a difficult time even doing that.
It could be argued that Stallings' woes for next season really began during the year with the loss of freshman point guard Justice Kithcart. Kithcart's dismissal, however, was disciplinary-related and, unless the punishment didn't fit the crime, calling Stallings out for that isn't really fair. Unfortunately that was just the beginning.
Most people realized that after such a rough year, Pitt's roster was going to be in for some changes even beyond the guys graduating. That happened relatively quickly. Crisshawn Clark left the team to little fanfare but the departure of true freshman Corey Manigault raised a few more eyebrows simply because of his potential.
Next up was the bombshell, though. Cam Johnson decided enough was enough and, with several high-profile program calling, decided to jump ship. Johnson's loss hurt because he was clearly the team's best player coming back and the only returning starter left. If you're looking for a single event this offseason that caused this snowball to swell to uncontrollable levels, well, that's it.
But while that was the move that really got the angst flowing, it was hardly the end.
One of the team's few bright spots left was the acquisition of Troy Simons earlier this year. Simons was the top JUCO scorer in the nation last season and, while it wasn't clear how good he could be, he at least had the ability to put the ball in the basket. He committed to the Panthers just last month but this week, it was announced that Pitt was no longer pursuing him. The early talk was about a problem with his grades but his coach later took exception to that and said that Pitt was no longer interested in him. Considering that they were as recently as last month, that made a strange situation even stranger.
The most recent domino to fall, of course, was the loss of Aaron Thompson yesterday. Thompson was considered one of the team's better recruits in the group of seven that they had coming in but he was just given a release from his letter of intent indicating he wants to go elsewhere. Like the loss of Johnson, this one seemed odd. Unlike some of the other players that left town, Thompson was Stallings' first recruit. As I said in yesterday's article, his departure signals not only a concern about rebuilding, but rebuilding under Stallings.
Regarding the Thompson stuff, keep in mind the time frame we're talking here. While he committed to the team last May, he signed his Letter of Intent just in November. In other words, he was completely on board with the program and it took him only six months to bail. For what reasons? You'd have to ask him. But that's a horrific look for Stallings who lost the faith of Thompson just like that.
Further compounding the problem is that Pitt has yet to start bringing in grad transfers that they are targeting. The team is still waiting on their first commit there and with at least five open scholarships (there could, after all, be more) it's pretty clear that much of the roster is going to be built on those types of players.
The silver lining here I suppose is that there's still time to assemble a decent roster (well, decent in terms of 'not a complete and utter dumpster fire'). Depending on what grad transfers he gets, the team could even have some solid experience on the roster. But the clock is ticking and there is no group of players that is going to magically transform this squad into a great team.
Stallings had a rocky season in which he lost to Duquesne, openly complained about players to the media on more than one occasion, and missed the postseason altogether. That is starting to pale in comparison to the ridiculous offseason he's having.