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Pitt tabs Vanderbilt's Stallings to lead men’s basketball program

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The University of Pittsburgh has hired former Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings to replace Jamie Dixon.

After rumors swirled Saturday evening and Sunday morning, Pitt Athletic Director Scott Barnes finally made the announcement on Sunday afternoon.

"Coach Stallings and I share the same vision for Pitt -- playing in the Final Four,” said Barnes. "Kevin has a successful track record recruiting the ACC footprint and beyond, and is one of the best coaches in the country at building an offense around his talent. He plays a fun up-tempo style that players love and fans will enjoy.  Kevin runs his program with impeccable character and has a high care factor and connection with his student-athletes. He is a Power Five conference coach whose experience and success will be immediate assets for our program."

Stallings has compiled a 455-283 record with nine NCAA Tournament appearances over a 23-year head coaching career. He began his head coaching career at Illinois State in 1993 before taking control of the Vanderbilt program prior to the start of the 1999-00 season.

"I am extremely excited to join the University of Pittsburgh family,” said Stallings. “Pitt has a tremendous basketball tradition and I am looking forward to building on the excellent foundation that is in place on the court and in the classroom. The city of Pittsburgh is outstanding and I have a great deal of respect for the people that make it such a special place. I look forward to seeing their support along with that of the Oakland Zoo next season at the Petersen Events Center."

The 55-year-old Stallings, whose job security at Vanderbilt was in question, had been the head coach at Vandy for 17 seasons and made the NCAA tournament seven times there.

Regarded as a good tacticion, Stallings recruited NBA talent to Vanderbilt despite strict admissions requirements. His teams had underachieved in recent years, however. Expected to compete for the SEC title this season, the 2015-16 Commodores instead finished in a tie for third place and were eliminated in the play-in round of the NCAA Tournament. His past four seasons included only a single NCAA Tournament bid and just one winning record in SEC play.

Stallings also had an issue with one of Pitt's returning players, forward Sheldon Jeter. The Beaver Falls native played for Vanderbilt as a freshman but opted to transfer to Pitt after his first season with the Commodores. Stallings blocked Jeter's transfer, however, refusing to allow the western PA native to return home. Instead, Jeter had to spend a semester at a junior college before finally attending Pitt.

National sources reported that both Arizona coach Sean Miller and Mississippi State coach Ben Howland were offered the Pitt head coaching position but turned it down last week.

The Pitt fanbase and national media reaction to Stalling's hiring has been overwhelmingly negative. Sporting News basketball writer Mike DeCourcy called the hiring "tone-deaf" and "ludicrous." 

ESPN's Jeff Goodman expressed concern with Pitt's hiring process. Pitt used a search firm run by former Vandy athletic director Todd Turner, who hired Stallings at Vanderbilt. Turner and Barnes also worked together at Washington.

There were rumors last week that Vanderbilt was about to fire Stallings, eventually forcing athletic director David Williams to publicly deny them. Pitt and Vanderbilt reportedly negotiated a buy-out of Stalling's contract.

Despite the fan unrest, Stallings did have his share of success in the SEC.

A two-time SEC Coach of the Year, Stallings compiled eight 20+ win seasons and a 332-220 record overall. His teams advanced to seven NCAA Tournaments, including six in the past 10 years and three consecutive tournaments (2010, 2011, 2012) for the first time in program history. He also became the first coach to take two Vanderbilt teams (2004 and 2007) to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams.

In 2011-12, he led Vanderbilt to the SEC Tournament Championship, marking the first time a Commodore team won the tournament in 60 years. His team reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament and concluded the season 25-11 overall.

Stallings coached three SEC Players of the Year (Dan Langhi, Derrick Byars, Shan Foster), seven NBA Draft picks, 37 All-SEC performers and 53  SEC Academic Honor Roll members during his tenure in Nashville. He also coached the top three scorers (Foster, Jeffrey Taylor and Matt Freije) in program history.

"The University of Pittsburgh’s tremendous reputation as an elite academic institution added to the appeal of this position,” Stallings added. “I believe we can achieve a great deal of success on the court and in the classroom, while developing complete student-athletes."

A 1978 graduate of Collinsville High School outside of St. Louis, Stallings played under the legendary Vergil Fletcher, who was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Stallings earned his undergraduate degree in business management and marketing at Purdue in 1982 before receiving a Master's degree in counseling from Purdue in 1985. Stallings and his wife Lisa have three children: Jacob, Alexa and Jordyn.

Stallings is the 15th head coach in program history and takes over a team that went 21-12 overall and 9-9 in the ACC a year ago. The Panthers reached the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time in the past 15 seasons before falling to Wisconsin, 47-43, in an opening round game in St. Louis.

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