Kevin Stallings’ Pittsburgh connections go deep — deeper than many might know.
Yes, Pitt hired Stallings on Sunday to take the helm of the Panthers’ men’s basketball program. And yes, the longtime Vanderbilt coach’s son, Jacob, is a catcher in the Pirates organization.
But Kevin Stallings, who made seven NCAA tournaments in 17 seasons as Vanderbilt head coach, made it a point to mention in his introductory press conference at the Petersen Events Center that his first exposure to Pittsburgh was the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in 1978.
Not only was Stallings on the roster for that March 31, 1978, game between the U.S. and Pennsylvania teams, but as Post-Gazette sportswriter Phil Axelrod wrote 10 days earlier, Stallings, a 6-5 shooting guard from Collinsville (Ill.) High School, was one of the first players announced for the United States squad in the 14th annual event.
“The Roundball brings the best players together, and I think I belong in that group,” Stallings, who was averaging 26 points and 10 rebounds per game, told the Post-Gazette at the time.
Others did, too. Before Stallings headed to Pittsburgh, he had to attend a banquet with a pretty important guest.
“[Notre Dame coach] Digger Phelps is speaking, and I heard the reason he’s coming is because of me,” Stallings said.
The U.S. team outlasted Pennsylvania, 105-100, at the Civic Arena that year. Stallings, who ended up at Purdue, scored eight points, most of them coming as the U.S. stretched its lead to 79-71 at the end of the third quarter.
No doubt Stallings wouldn’t mind being a part of a few more wins in Pittsburgh in the coming years.