Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 26, 2016

Kevin Stallings

Pitt Panthers

KEVIN STALLINGS: Pleasure to be the new basketball coach at the University of Pittsburgh and experience my first ACC Media Day. A very daunting challenge that any new coach has coming into this league with the quality of coaches and teams and players and programs that exist here, but it's also, I think, the reason that all of us sign up for it is because of the challenge. It's basically the biggest challenge you can have professionally to come into this league and coach against the guys that are in this league and that have made this league great.

I'm excited about my team. I really enjoy coaching the guys that I have. I inherited all of them. Haven't recruited a single guy. That hasn't mattered. They've accepted me with open arms, and I've been very grateful for that.

I attribute a lot of that to Sheldon Jeter, who played for me for a year at Vanderbilt and convinced his teammates that I was going to be a good guy to play for and a guy that they would enjoy.

We've hit the ground running as fast as we can. Some days that feels like a crawl, and some days it feels like a sprint. Really enjoying what's going on and enjoying the process of trying to put this team together and help them be as competitive as we can be.

Q. I grew up watching Pitt basketball and the tough-nosed defense that they played. What makeup do you want your team to possess this year?
KEVIN STALLINGS: Well, I hope that my teams will be as hard-nosed defensively as the Pitt teams of the past have been for many, many years. I think that's always kind of been the Pitt brand, has been a team of toughness, and hopefully we won't lose that.

In terms of what we're known for, hopefully we're known for winning and winning with dignity and class. I hope we have enough success that we're not focused on what it is that we do on offense or what it is that we do on defense, I just hope that we win and we win a lot and we win for good reasons and the right way.

I know that's a challenge, as I said before, in this league because of the quality of the programs and the coaches and the players. I would like to think that my teams have historically been pretty good offensively, and hopefully that will continue. And hopefully if I can do anything with this team it's create some freedom and create some opportunities for the talented guys that we do have, especially the older guys on our team, to be all that they can be. Because, again, my job is to put them in positions to be successful, and hopefully that's what we'll do.

Q. Jamel Artis is apparently going to make the transition to playing primarily as a point guard this year. Can you talk about that development for him?
KEVIN STALLINGS: Yeah, that's something that we, I, came to rather slowly. When I took over the job in late March or early April, as we began our workouts, I merely asked the team to show me what they knew, do what they had been coached to do. I just wanted to see where their comfort zones were, what they looked like, what they did. I didn't want to go in and try to say, we have to do it this way, we have to do it that way.

As I watched our team progress over the course of the summertime, it became very apparent to me that Jamel was our best passer, and we have a team full of pretty good passers, but Jamel is an excellent passer with great vision. And by playing Jamel some or even totally at the point guard spot, that would allow me to get what I deemed, at least right now, as our five best players on the court, because I think Cam Johnson is one of our best five, and so by moving Jamel primarily to a guard spot, that allowed Cam Johnson to be on the floor, which I thought was helpful in a number of ways for our team.

Jamel will handle the guard spot fine. He's an excellent ball handler, an excellent passer. He has great size and great feet, especially for a guy his size.

Now it will come down to his discretion and his selection of what passes to throw, what types of opportunities to try to take and which ones to pass on. And I think that's the biggest challenge he's going to face initially is as he accustoms himself to this new role of how many chances do I take and how many singles do I try to hit as opposed to how many home runs do I hit. And if Jamel will be content with hitting singles, he'll be a heck of a guard for us.

Q. You have a coaching style, your students have a leadership style. In this early engagement, are you guys finding a good blend with what the seniors had been doing and where you want to take it?
KEVIN STALLINGS: I've been very impressed with the leadership of the four seniors that we have, and that's probably our greatest strength as a team is our experience.

I think they almost view themselves as a leadership team, and so I've asked those guys what it is that they want from their senior year, what is it that they want in the culture of Pitt basketball that they would like to see, and we've tried to come to some mutual agreements, if you will, on how we can best do those things going forward.

Obviously I've given them a taste of what it is that I expect and what it is that I want, and I think that they have tried very hard to accommodate me, as well.

It's been a fun process because I've enjoyed the challenge of challenging their leadership skills and trying to make them better and help them grow in that area, as opposed to just hoping that somebody identifies themselves as the leader or becomes the leader. We're actively pursuing good leadership for our team, and I think our seniors will be very adept at it.

Q. Just when you think about the rivalry between Pitt and Syracuse, I know it's going to be your first year, but just what are you expecting when you step into the Carrier Dome in January?
KEVIN STALLINGS: Well, the first thing is I have to believe that the Syracuse fans are the happiest that there was a coaching change at Pittsburgh, and so they're probably very happy to see me come because I think Pitt won all three times last year, and Jim's team, of course, ended up in the Final Four.

But I can only hope that we can be as effective in zone offense as Coach Dixon's team seemed to be.

I actually played in the Dome many years ago when I believe I was a senior in college, and Coach Boeheim was coaching then, so how about that. He's been at this for a while, somebody said.

You know, I think it's just one of those things to where rivalries are what college basketball and college sports are all about, and I hope that the rivalry is as good as I feel like it probably is. Jim always has great teams. I'm one who really is in awe of his ability to play one defense and play it so well that he can take multiple teams to the Final Four. You just don't see that in this day and age, especially with a guy that plays all zone defense.

There are some things about the game that he knows that a lot of the rest of us don't. But I'm excited about the opportunity to, not only with Syracuse but with the entire league, go and see the great venues and compete against the great coaches and see where it all kind of shakes out.

Q. Earlier today we asked two of our coaches to give an assessment about themselves. Beyond the wins and the losses, beyond the trophies, how do you know at the end of the day that you're a good coach doing what it is that you want to be doing for these kids?
KEVIN STALLINGS: Well, at the end of the day, I ask myself the thing that I always promise kids in the recruiting process, and that is that I'll give them the best that I have every day to help them be successful, because I've long since gotten over myself. This is not about me. It's not about my career. It's not about my wins and losses. It's about those kids and how much I can help them succeed.

I had my turn. Gene Keady helped me and still helps me to this day as much as he can, so he gave me a nice blueprint for how players are supposed to be treated and the lifelong commitment you make to them when they say they want to play in your program.

When I go to bed at night, my only hope is that the answer is yes to the question did I help each guy on my team as much as I possibly could today be as successful as they can be, because that's why I have a job. I don't have a job because of me, I have a job because we have student-athletes that are to be coached and nurtured and mentored and developed, and developed in many more ways other than just basketball. And I'd like to think that -- I hope I do a good job at that. If there's only one thing I can do a good job at professionally, I hope that's it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #166 at 2016-10-26 21:05:00 GMT

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