Pittsburgh fired its men’s basketball head coach Kevin Stallings over the weekend. On paper, it’s the most cut-and-dried firing you’ll ever see. The Panthers played 39 ACC games under Stallings and won five of them, including an 0-19 mark this season.
Except there’s one issue here: Pitt doesn’t want to pay Stallings his buyout.
Stalling’s contract — which Pitt offered to Stallings as incentive to lure him away from Vanderbilt — calls for him to be payed a $9.4 million buyout if fired without cause. Pitt doesn’t want to pay that, because paying a guy $9.4 million for going 0-fer is a tough sell to boosters and the public.
So the school is reportedly trying to fire him for cause. According to Pittsburgh radio host Colin Dunlap, Pitt has presented Stallings with an offer to take a $4.8 million payment (half his contractually-obligated buyout) or be fired with cause and walk away with nothing. And here’s the rub. According to Dunlap, the reason for which Pitt is trying to fire Stallings for cause is completely ridiculous:
In (a) January 2 loss at Louisville, Stallings turned to a heckling fan behind the Pitt bench and said “at least we didn’t pay our guys $100,000.” He also exclaimed loudly: “we didn’t pay our guys 100 grand, though.” The comments came after Louisville’s highly-publicized pay-for-play scandal.
Stalling’s representatives all but confirmed Dunlap’s report with this statement.
Kevin Stallings’ attorney just issued a statement. Pretty much says what I wrote this morning — Stallings’ camp disagrees that he should be fired with cause and they want their full buyout. pic.twitter.com/AcgGe5FSIj
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) March 9, 2018
Pitt’s tactic, if what’s reported above is accurate, blatantly insults the intelligence of everyone involved. If the school was truly bothered enough by that post-game incident the day after New Year’s (there’s no doubt it happened; Stallings apologized in his press conference afterward) then the school could have fired him then, not the day after the team was bounced from the ACC Tournament to conclude an 8-25 season.
Look, it’s ridiculous to make a martyr of a coach who, even with a lowball offer, is set to walk away with more money than most people will make in a lifetime to not work. But this is the deal Pitt offered Stallings, a coach who did not win an NCAA Tournament game in his final four seasons at Vanderbilt. The Panthers weren’t hiring Mike Krzyewski here, and still they offered Stallings a contract that promised him nearly a nearly $10 million buyout two years into the deal.
That’s not Stalling’s fault. It’s Pitt’s. (For what it’s worth: The AD who hired Stallings, Scott Barnes, is no longer at Pitt.)
It remains to be seen what number Stallings eventually takes home, but the fact that Pitt is even trying such a tactic should have all coaches (and their agents) on alert.