Pittsburgh has found their new head coach in Kevin Stallings, who leaves Vanderbilt after 17 seasons in charge. Stallings is the most successful coach in Vanderbilt program history, leading the Commodores to 7 NCAA Tournament appearances, 2 trips to the Sweet Sixteen and 5 NIT berths with an overall record 332-220 (.601).
He will look to rebuild a Pittsburgh program that has won just 3 NCAA Tournament games since the Panthers’ run to the Elite Eight in 2009.
In many ways, Stallings’ exit from Vanderbilt mirrors that of his Pitt predecessor Jamie Dixon. After 13 seasons with the Panthers, Dixon left for a fresh start at his alma mater TCU. The move was likened to an amicable divorce between coach and program, with each party looking to reset and try something new. Stallings has been a fixture at Vanderbilt for nearly two decades, but a lack of success in the last few years makes this a great time for each side to get a fresh start.
It will be interesting to see what direction Vanderbilt takes with its coaching search. Pittsburgh grabbed an experienced coach looking for a new challenge, but Vanderbilt could look to the mid-major ranks for an up-and-comer with a solid resume.
Several of Stallings’ former assistants could be considered as candidates, including Monmouth’s King Rice and Illinois State’s Dan Muller. Other hot coaching prospects include VCU’s Will Wade and Chattanooga’s Matt McCall. If VU wants someone with more experience, they may look across town at Rick Byrd, a Tennessee-native who has been the Belmont head coach since 1986.
The SEC has seen a influx of high-profile (and high-cost) coaches in the last year, adding Bruce Pearl (Auburn), Rick Barnes (Tennessee) and Avery Johnson (Alabama) to a conference that already includes college basketball’s highest-paid head coach in Kentucky’s John Calipari. Vanderbilt may need to go big and bust out the checkbook if they hope to compete in the quickly change SEC landscape.