Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 25, 2017

Kevin Stallings

Pitt Panthers

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings.

Q. Your takeaways from the first season with the team. And then, second question would be dealing with the newness on the team of the transfers going out and the freshmen coming in?
COACH STALLINGS: Well, the takeaways from the first season was that this league is everything that I expected it to be and more. I've lived a pretty privileged life, it feels like, in terms of the places that I've worked at.

And I've been in the Big Ten, and I was with Roy in what was the Big Eight, now the Big 12, and, of course, a long time in the SEC.

The ACC is undoubtedly the most difficult league, most challenging league that I've ever seen from a college basketball perspective. And so that would be one takeaway.

Certainly going into our second year it feels like you're number one all over again because we have so many new players. But interestingly enough that's the way it's been in my other two previous head coaching jobs.

I had big senior classes in both spots. And then there was turnover and so you felt like you were going through season number one, like I said, for a second time.

I'm encouraged about this group that we have. They're hardworking, hard playing, coachable guys. We'll be short on experience. I don't think we'll be short on effort and tenacity and the things that you want to see in your team when they play.

So we understood when we took the job, I understood when I took the job that year two was going to be kind of a hard year in the respect that I knew there would be a lot of turnover. I knew we would have to replace a lot.

I didn't know we'd have to replace as much as we did, but I knew that we'd have to replace a lot. And so as I told someone last season, what was keeping me up was this season.

But we're almost there. And I am excited about my team. Again, I don't know what that will mean in terms of wins and losses, but I really like their approach and I like how they think and how they play.

Q. What do you ask for from team senior leaders in Ryan Luther and Jonathan Milligan in terms of mentoring the younger kids coming in who haven't experienced the college basketball game?
COACH STALLINGS: I haven't had to ask too much, because Milligan and Ryan are both guys, they do the right things off the court. They do the right things socially.

Ryan Luther is as an exemplary of a student-athlete as you could possibly find and possibly coach. He's an excellent student. Again, he's a great person. He does the right things all the time. And so he's really the only guy on our team with extensive ACC experience. And so he's going to have to lead really in every way, not only through his play, but through his words and being vocal with his teammates on -- and he's done that already. He's already embraced that and done a terrific job with it, as has Milli.

They're giving us what they can give us. I don't really need anymore from them than we're getting right now. But they know that their job is, A, to do what they're supposed to do. But, B, communicate to the guys in the program that haven't been here before what the expectations are, what we want, what we need and what the culture is and how we are going to operate in it.

Q. A lot of coaches will look from year to year and say, well, statistically we need to do this better or this better. Since this is such a brand new year, are there any stats right now that are resonating that you need to work on?
COACH STALLINGS: No, there's nothing from last year that will carry over to this year in terms of we need to be this or we need to be that, that we weren't last year.

What we need to be is a team that plays together, that defends like our lives depend on it, and rebounds the ball with as much tenacity and physicality as we can, because I don't think at times we'll be the biggest team that I've ever had. And so we are already anticipating what it's going to be like for us, the kind of effort that we're going to have to play with both defensively and on the backboards.

So that's our job right now is to get our teams to defend and rebound the way that we're going to need to in order to be able to be competitive in this league.

Q. One game at a time, but with all that said, do you look at the schedule and think about what you want the season to be?
COACH STALLINGS: Not really. I'm kind of reminded in a little bit of a humorous way of something that I heard Lou Holtz say one time. He said, I'm sleeping like a baby. I'm waking up every two hours and crying.

We're so young, and there will be so many lessons that have to be learned. But that's part of -- that's just part of the process. That's part of the process of building a team, building a program.

And I knew when I took it over that after the first year it was going to require a tremendous amount of effort and work and time.

And that's what we're devoting to it. We're trying to build a program that we want to have and we know that we're in the very, very first stages of that. I don't know how long it's going to take. I'm not the most patient guy in the world, but I would have liked to have had it done yesterday.

But hopefully tomorrow, when we're kind of to that point where we want to be, is closer than it feels.

Q. You say you're in the beginning stage building that foundation with this new team. What are you most confident about going in with this young team?
COACH STALLINGS: Ironically, the thing that I'm most confident in is how hard they're going to play. And sometimes that's one of the last things that a young group really gets their minds wrapped around and something that they figure out.

But I've recruited for a long, long time and you can think that you recruit this and then all of a sudden you find out that you've recruited that.

We had signed so many guys, I wasn't sure what we had recruited. But the thing that I've learned thus far is these guys are going to play really hard. And now, again, we might injure people in the first row with some of the passes that we throw.

We might hurt each other in practice because they play very physically. But they play really, really hard and they really care. So the comfort that I take every night when I go home, despite -- like, two days ago practice was awesome, we looked -- we were executing and it looked really good.

Yesterday, not so much. And so I go home with two completely different feelings after those two practices. But the one thing or the two things that I take with me is they do play hard and they do care.

And they are coachable. So if I can continue to say that all season long, then we'll get as close to where we can be as our potential allows for.

Q. You said last year was everything and more about the ACC. Last year was your 24th year as a head coach. You're always learning stuff about your student-athletes. Last year, what did you learn about you?
COACH STALLINGS: That's a really good question. I think what I learned about me is something that I've known but something that was nice to sort of relearn, if you will. And that is that I enjoy the competition. I'm addicted to, almost addicted to the competition and that striving to be the best that I can be.

And I've said this a few times today, but you're always taught and you're told as an athlete or whatever that to be the best you want to compete against the best and that sort of thing. That's sort of how I look at this job for me is I'm competing against some of the best basketball coaches that college basketball has ever known. And I'm excited to try to put a program together and put a program in place to see how I can do, our program can do against some of the greatest that the sport has ever known.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #188 at 2017-10-25 20:11:00 GMT

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