CRAWFORD | Stallings "100 grand" retort to fan in loss to Louisville a reminder of road ahead
It's unusual for a coach to talk trash to an opposing fan about an opponent's alleged NCAA misdeeds, but that's what happened with Louisville beating Pittsburgh Tuesday night. It likely was a preview of the road games ahead for the Cardinals, who won 77-51.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There’s one thing you can say about Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings: He speaks his mind.
I’ve covered him from his early days at Illinois State, on to Vanderbilt, and now at Pittsburgh. He’s blunt, and doesn’t mince words, with players or anyone else.
So in that sense, it’s not surprising that when a fan was heckling him near the end of his team's 77-51 loss to Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center last night, he reportedly got his two cents’ worth in, plus about $99,999.98.
“At least we don’t pay our players $100,000,” he shot back, according to WDRB video shot by John Lewis. The video of the exchange didn’t catch what the fan said back to him, but Stallings again said, “We didn’t pay our guys 100 grand though!”
That kind of thing is going to be par for the course for a while for Louisville, “something that’s going to keep haunting us,” center Anas Mahmoud said.
Louisville is accused in a Federal indictment of conspiring with adidas, an agent and a financial advisor to funnel $100,000 from the shoe company to recruit Brian Bowen in exchange for his attending Louisville and signing with adidas and the agent and advisor after his college career.
When asked about his comment after the game, Stallings said, “Somebody said something bad about my players, and I’m going to stick up for my players. I probably said the wrong thing, but I’m not going to let people talk crap about my players. We’re down, the game’s over with, you don’t need to insult kids that are out there trying to fight hard and do their best. So, like I said, I probably should have chosen some different words, but I’m not going to let people take shots at our players.”
Leaving aside the decorum and politics of his statement, I agree with Stallings on one point. Nobody should be heckling players. It’s ridiculous. It also happens.
Given that Stallings’ comments are on video, he’ll probably have to issue an apology. And he should. The Atlantic Coast Conference won’t look to favorably on a coach saying something like that. It already was a big story before the teams left the arena Tuesday night.
ESPN had asked for a copy of the audio. Sports Illustrated asked to share a copy of my video of Stallings’ postgame statement. The comment has legs.
As for Louisville’s players, they seemed more amused than angered.
“What? He said that?” Anas Mahmoud reacted. “You know, all that was out of our control, is out of our control. We’re going to hear it all.”
Deng Adel said, “It had nothing to do with me. I came here to play basketball. All that stuff, it had nothing to do with any of us here. I guess he said that out of frustration. . . . Fans are free to say whatever they want to say, I don’t know about the coaches, but fans are going to say whatever. We just have to stay focused on basketball and block out all the noise.”
The Cardinals encountered fans wearing FBI shirts and holding signs at Purdue. Mahmoud said U of L players heard “a little” heckling about the FBI investigation at Kentucky. But they know it’s on the way, with back-to-back road games at Clemson and Florida State up next, and a full ACC road schedule waiting.
“I didn’t hear it, I don’t even know if I was on the court,” sophomore Ryan McMahon said. “I’m sure there was some frustration. We got them pretty good on their home court last year, and we got them pretty good tonight. You can’t hold something against a guy he says in frustration like that. We’ve all said things when we were angry or frustrated. . . . From a coach? A little bit shocking, but I don’t think you can hold it against him.”
V.J. King said the main thing for Louisville players is to not become distracted. He said it can be tough to block things out, but that the team needs to.
“Fans get personal at times,” King said. “But you have to block it out. You’re there to get a win, not to get into it with fans or whatever. There’s a bar of professionalism.”
Padgett said he didn’t hear the comment, and didn’t even know about it until asked in his postgame news conference.
“First road game we played at, Purdue student section wore T-shirts that said FBI,” he said. “There’s nothing we’re going to be surprised by. We played at Purdue and at Kentucky, two of the toughest road environments in the country. Look, it doesn’t matter what team you are or where you go, you’re going to get heckled on the road. Now, I’m sure some schools are going to have a little bit more ammunition, but we’ve just got to ignore that. Our players didn’t let that bother them, and it’s not something we’re going to talk about or even pay attention to. . . . We were just concerned about getting to 1-0 (in the ACC), anything else doesn’t matter.”
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