By Mychal Hunter
In the real job I typically work late on Tuesday and Friday nights, last night I arrived at the homestead around 7:20 or so and snapped on some ACC hoops to find that Pitt was on the verge of thumping Boston College, leading 28-13. I thought for a second that I was quite prophetic as just two weeks ago I stated on the podcast that the most likely win left on Pitt’s schedule was home against the Eagles.
Then it happened…
The curse that is the ACC Basketball Report Podcast.
Even though Boston College had lost Jerome Robinson earlier in the game due to two personals and a technical that I did not catch, the Eagles came storming back and made Pitt look like, well, Pitt. Parker Stewart, who had 11 points early on, only had 5 the rest of the way and Vin Baker Jr. came up huge for the Eagles with 11 points in 11 minutes, hitting two triples and getting fouled on another where he made all three free throw attempts while filling in for Robinson, who returned and torched the Panthers for 27.
The Eagles outscored the Pitt 68-31 the rest of the way, cruising to an 81-58 victory.
The Panthers have now failed to score 70 points in all 14 ACC games and will close the season @FSU, home against Wake Forest, home against #1 Virginia and @Notre Dame. They will obviously not be favored in any of those games and after such a demoralizing defeat at home in front of a sparse crowd it is safe to say that this team will likely go win-less in the conference slate.
Regardless of what some may think there is talent on this roster, it is just all young talent that needs to be developed, something I am not sure has ever been Stalling’s strong suit. Parker Stewart, Shamiel Stevenson and Marcus Carr are a pretty strong nucleus that I think can become successful players in this league.
Here is the rub: Is there any possible way for Stallings to get this fan base back on his side?
Obviously wins is the best way to go about that but with a seven man freshman class, no front court depth in place and seemingly none on the way, those are going to be hard to come by. The word on the street is that the current buyout number is $9MM due to Stallings having 4 years remaining on a 6 year deal. It has become quite clear that fans who may have possibly seen this as a good hire to begin with have lost faith, given the terrible attendance numbers. According to ESPN, Pitt had averaged 10,000 fans since opening the Petersen Events Center in 2002 but have averaged just a shade over 4000 this season. The other possible saving grace for distraught Pitt fans is that the current Athletic Director, Heather Lyke, is not who made the hire to begin with.
One thing to consider is: How likely is it that potential candidates will accept an offer when the program just fired a coach after two seasons and did not give him the opportunity to develop his first full recruiting class? The answer is fairly obvious, it wasn’t the correct hire to begin with but will candidates accept that? Will Dan Hurley leave URI for that answer (if he doesn’t end up at UConn)? I have said before on the podcast that I think former Pitt point guard and current Rutgers Assistant Coach Brandin Knight is the answer here and I stick by that but can Lyke pull it off?
One thing is for certain, the Pitt off season is already promising to be more interesting than the 2017-18 basketball season.