Vanderbilt basketball is suffering through one of the most disappointing seasons in program history now that a team with early Final Four aspirations is staring down the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. According to Kevin Stallings, those expectations were never realistic in the first place.
Stallings vented his frustrations in a press conference on Thursday, two nights after the Commodores dropped to 15-11 on the season after blowing a 17-point lead against Mississippi State. The long-tenured Vandy coach spread blame for his team's frustrating season on everything from the fans' expectations, guidance-resistant players, and kids that are "too nice."
Here's what Stallings had to say. The transcription is courtesy of Adam Sparks over at the Tennessean.
Unfortunately, the perception with our team is that it's an extraordinarily talented team. That's really an unfair perception because it's still a very young team and a team that doesn't know how to win, and a team that doesn't accept coaching the way that it needs to.
Vanderbilt currently has three players - Damian Jones, Wade Baldwin IV, and Luke Kornet - who seem destined for a stint in the NBA. The 'Dores also employ a Swiss Army Knife small forward (Jeff Roberson), a deadeye three-point shooter (Matthew Fisher-Davis), and a pair of talented, but so far disappointing, shooting guards in Riley LaChance and Nolan Cressler. That doesn't even touch on young players like Joe Toye or Camron Justice - but according to Stallings' quotes tonight, assessing this team as "extraordinarily talented" is out of bounds.
That wasn't all Stallings had to say about his water-trending 2015-16 campaign.
Show me a team that ever finished seventh place in their league and played in the NIT and went to the Final Four the next year. I'll bet you can't. So there were all these crazy expectations that we haven't handled well, quite frankly, all of us
In 2009-2010, UConn finished 12th in the Big East. The Huskies won the national title the following year. In 2012-13 they finished seventh in their conference and didn't even make it to the NIT. They won another NCAA championship in 2013-14. In the past seven years alone, you can find two examples of teams that not just rose from mediocrity to the Final Four, but raised a banner the following season.
Stallings also blamed some of the team's woes on his players' lack of killer instinct.
In some instances, it's a case of being too nice...I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus. They're good kids.
The Commodore coach closed out his conference by telling reporters he isn't worried about his team's inconsistent performances. Which is strange, because that seems like exactly the sort of thing a college basketball coach should be concerned about.