(SCENE: The office of Vice Chancellor David Williams, March 12, 2016. Kevin Stallings taps on the door and sticks his head in. Also, this conversation never actually happened.)
Stallings: Hey, boss, you wanted to see me?
Williams: Oh, Kevin! I'm glad you could make it today. There are a few things I wanted to discuss with you.
Stallings: This... isn't what I think it is, is it? I know we lost to Tennessee in our first game of the SEC Tournament but that wasn't my fault. The players just --
Williams: No, no, Kevin, I'm not going to fire you.
Stallings: ...You're not?
Williams: No, Kevin. For me to fire you, I would have to convince Chancellor Zeppos to sign off on paying your buyout, and there's no way he would ever authorizing spending money for that purpose.
Stallings: Oh. Phew.
Williams: But... you're not going to be our coach next year.
Stallings: Wait, I thought you said I wasn't getting fired?
Williams: You're not. But you're not going to be our coach next year. VandyBruin has been calling me every day for the last ten years demanding that you be fired.
Stallings: Uh, who's VandyBruin?
Williams: It's not important. What is important is that the fan base is pissed off about this season, and they'll revolt if you're the coach next year. Now, I know I told you that Zeppos won't sign off on paying your buyout but there's a way to get you out of here and have another school pay us a few million to buy out your contract.
Stallings: There is? Wait, I heard St. Louis opened up the other day. Is that where I am going?
Williams: No. We're going to drop some rumors that you're taking the St. Louis job, but that's not where you are going. St. Louis will only take you if we waive your buyout. And that's not something we are willing to accept. Luckily we know of a way to get someone to pay your buyout.
Stallings: Really? But... we haven't made the tournament since 2012. And we're not making it this year. Not after the Tennessee loss.
Williams: Yes, we are. I've called in a few favors and Vanderbilt will play Wichita State in the First Four in Dayton.
Stallings: Oh... wow, really? Wait, Wichita State is ranked 11th in KenPom. How are they going to Dayton?
Williams: Because I've requested it. You are going to lose to Wichita State. Not only are you going to lose, you are going to lose by 20 points.
Williams: Because, Kevin... if we go on a run in the tournament, it will put me in a very awkward position. Then the fans will demand that I give you a contract extension to keep you from taking another job.
Stallings: So where am I going, then?
(Williams presses the speaker button on his phone.)
Williams: Norma, can you get Chris Del Conte on the phone for me?
Speaker: Right away, sir.
Stallings: Wait... no... no. TCU? You're making me go to TCU?
Williams: No, I'm not. Just wait.
(TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte's voice comes over the speaker.)
Del Conte: Hi, David? You called?
Williams: Chris! How are you doing? Remember that time we wagered $3 million on the College World Series game between our schools?
Del Conte: Ha! Yeah! I love making joke bets with money I don't have!
Williams: Yeah. It's time to settle...
Del Conte: .......
Williams: Here's how we are going to settle this bet. Are you listening?
Del Conte: Yes...
Williams: Okay. The rumor mill has it that you're about to fire Trent Johnson.
Del Conte: That's correct. He's won eight Big 12 games in four years, no way are we keeping him.
Williams: And you understand that our basketball coach, Kevin Stallings, has a $3 million buyout...
Del Conte: Wait... no, really? You're going to make us hire Kevin Stallings?
Williams: No, we're not. That would be too obvious, the feds would be all over us. Plus we need a plausible story. Kevin taking the TCU job isn't plausible.
Del Conte: And our fans would kill me over hiring another coach with a losing record in SEC play. They'll say we hired Trent Johnson all over again!
Stallings: Hey! You take that back!
Williams: Shut up, Kevin. No, here's what you are going to do. I understand one of your alumni is currently the head coach at Pittsburgh.
Del Conte: Yeah, but we always call Jamie on the frequent occasions that we have an opening. He never comes. He's like our white whale.
Williams: This time he will. Pitt fans are starting to bring out the pitchforks.
Del Conte: But isn't his buyout like $10 million?
Williams: It is. But I've already made some calls to some oil millionaires in Fort Worth. They are ready to cut checks to be competitive in the Big 12.
Del Conte: Since when do they care about basketball?
Williams: They don't care about basketball, but they at least want the basketball program to stop embarrassing your school.
Del Conte: Right. So how do you play into all this?
Williams: Kevin will be taking the Pitt job, and they'll be sending us a check to pay his buyout.
Stallings: Wait, my son is a catcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization... I'm in!
Williams: Exactly, Kevin. It's believable that you would take the Pitt job.
Del Conte: But would they actually hire him?
Williams: Of course they would! They'll probably call Howland first, but there's no way he gives up his current gig.
Stallings: Wait, he won't give up the Mississippi State job? But he has to live in Starkville!
Williams: Actually, he doesn't. I've called in some favors at Mississippi State and they are going to allow Howland use of the university's private jet so that he can commute from Santa Barbara to Starkville. He only has to go to Starkville on game day.
Stallings: Call in favors... oh, so THAT was why you had me blow that 17-point lead at Mississippi State last month. Got it.
Williams: Yes. I knew you would eventually see why that had to happen. We had to create a situation where not only would Mississippi State bend over backwards to keep Howland in Starkville, but also where that sunshine-pumper Tom Stephenson would call for your head.
Stallings: He really did make a convincing case.
Williams: Yes, of course he did. He got an A in my sports law seminar class. But anyway, our mole Sheldon Jeter is working day and night in Pittsburgh to ensure that you will get the job. And now you understand why he had to transfer there three years ago.
Stallings: But then why did we block his release to transfer?
Williams: We couldn't make it obvious that we were planting a mole in the program. Since you tried to block his release, nobody in Pittsburgh suspects that he is actually our inside man.
Stallings: So what am I going to do for the next two weeks?
Williams: I don't care. Go on TBS as an analyst and try playing the guitar on national TV. Go on vacation. Whatever. But in a couple of weeks, you're going to be named Pitt's head coach.
Stallings: Sounds like a plan! And everybody wins!
Williams: Well... except Pitt.
Stallings: Except Pitt... hey, wait!