The former Vanderbilt coach that Tennessee fans loved to hate has been fired after just two seasons at Pittsburgh.
Stallings was hired in 2016 by former athletic director Scott Barnes and signed a six-year deal after Jamie Dixon left for TCU. The Panthers went 16-17 (4-14 ACC) in Stallings’ first season and were 8-24 this season — including 0-19 in ACC games.
Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg writes that Stallings’ termination was inevitable from the beginning.
Seldom has a coaching hire been more clearly bungled from the get-go than Pittsburgh’s decision to pluck Stallings from Vanderbilt two years ago. Pittsburgh erred every step of the way, from lowering Jamie Dixon’s buyout to encourage him to leave, to needlessly raising expectations for the hire with a fruitless run at Sean Miller, to ultimately hiring a candidate whose previous school was happy to see him go.
Stallings was hired in March 2016 by then-athletic director Scott Barnes, who spent 18 months on the job and who found Stallings through a search firm that was teeming with conflicts of interest: Barnes had previously worked for the firm’s president, who had also hired Stallings at his previous stop at Vanderbilt. Whatever merits Stallings might have as a coach, five players transferred out after last season and few reinforcements were recruited to keep the program above ground.
The Tennessean is piling on, too. The hometown newspaper of Stallings’ former team reminds us that Stallings didn’t necessarily take the Pitt job by choice, but was “lightly pushed out” by Vanderbilt.
In retrospect, some of the same events that spelled his end there also occurred at Vanderbilt — only in fast-forward. When you lose at the absolute wrong time, allow your most profane phrases to be caught on national TV and fail to endear yourself to fans, things can go poorly.
All things considered, it probably goes without saying that Stallings’ days of coaching a major college basketball program are over. And Tennessee fans aren’t likely to shed tears over that.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Stallings and Tennessee fans lost little love between themselves. In 2012, after his Vanderbilt team lost to Cuonzo Martin’s Vols, Stallings was overheard shouting to UT fans, “Good luck in the NIT,” a reference to the fact that his Commodores were headed to the NCAA Tournament and the upstart Vols were relegated to the lesser NIT. Two years later, he called Tennessee fans “idiots” for wanting to fire Martin.
Stallings never liked Bruce Pearl. (That’s putting it mildly; Stallings hated Pearl’s guts.) He infamously remarked at SEC Media Day in 2008 that Tennessee had been successful because of its talent instead of its coaching. He was also once overheard remarking that Pearl is “an idiot.” (Idiot, apparently, is his favorite derogatory term.)
Of course, not to be forgotten is the fact that Stallings could’ve been the coach at Tennessee. It seems like ancient history now — almost is, in fact; it’s been 20 years — but the Vols offered their head coaching job to Stallings in 1997, when Kevin O’Neill left for Northwestern and Stallings was at Illinois State. Stallings turned down the offer, then eliminated UT in the first round of the next season’s NCAA Tournament. A year later, he was at Vandy and swept the best team Jerry Green ever had at Tennessee.