Vanderbilt advances to NIT quarterfinals, will play Stanford-Rhode Island winner
Vanderbilt to play in their 12th NIT in the history of the program at Saint Mary's on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
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Vanderbilt hosted South Dakota State in the NIT second round on March 20, 2015 at Memorial Gym. (Joe Howell)
March 7, 2015
2015-16: Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings has taken the Commodore basketball program to unparalleled heights in his 16 years at the helm, with success coming on the floor and in the classroom during his tenure. His teams have advanced to six NCAA Tournaments - including five in the last nine years and three consecutive tournaments (2010, 2011, 2012) for the first time in program history. He became the first coach to take two Vanderbilt teams to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament since the 64-65 team format (2004 and 2007). He has coached three SEC Players of the Year (Dan Langhi, Derrick Byars, Shan Foster), and 30 All-SEC performers. His 2012 team captured the SEC Tournament Championship, the first time a Commodore team has won the tournament in 60 years. He has coached eight 20-win campaigns with the Commodores, the most in school history, and is the school’s all-time victories leader, an accomplishment he achieved in the 2013-14 campaign. Additionally, he has mentored 53 members of the SEC Academic Honor Roll in his tenure, and currently has two former players playing on an NBA roster.
This kind of success comes as no surprise to the players who put on the Vanderbilt jersey when adjectives like competitive, personable, passionate, intense, honest, hard-working, knowledgeable and prepared describe their coach and the program they represent.
The list of accomplishments for the current Vanderbilt coach continues to grow:
• Stallings has eight 20-win seasons, all in the last 12 years, and is the all-time leader in 20-win seasons, surpassing the legendary Roy Skinner, who had six.
• He was named SEC Coach of the Year by SEC Coaches in 2007 and 2010, only the third coach in Vanderbilt history to win two of the prestigious awards.
• Stallings notched his 400th career win in the quarterfinals of the 2013 SEC Touranment against Kentucky, and has 313 wins in his 16-year tenure as Vanderbilt's head coach.
• He has coached three SEC Players of the Year (coaches) - Dan Langhi in 1999-2000, Derrick Byars in 2006-07, and Shan Foster in 2007-08 (AP and Coaches).
In fact, in his 37 years as a player or coach, success has followed Stallings throughout his basketball career as a player at Purdue, an assistant at both Purdue and Kansas and his previous head coaching position at Illinois State. During the time span, Stallings has been a part of 25 seasons with 20-or-more victories and a basketball season that concluded during postseason play 29 times.
Stallings has guided the Commodores to postseason play in eight out of the last 11 seasons and in 11 out of his 16 years at Vanderbilt. Included in those appearances are two Sweet 16 berths and back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2007 and 2008 and three consecutive berths from 2010-2012, a program first.
In 2011-12, his Commodore team won 25 games for the second time in his tenure while also tying a program-best for wins. The 2011-12 team captured the SEC Tournament Championship for the first time in 60 years, knocking off eventual national champion Kentucky in the finals. Vanderbilt advanced to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament, and in June of 2012, had three players in the first 31 picks of the NBA Draft (John Jenkins, 23rd, Hawks; Festus Ezeli, 30th, Golden State; Jeffery Taylor, 31st, Charlotte), another program first.
The 2010-11 team knocked off five teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including Kentucky, who eventually advanced to the Final Four. John Jenkins emerged as one of the nation's top shooters and led the SEC in scoring and three-pointers made. Under Stallings' tutelage, Festus Ezeli blossomed into an all-SEC center, and Jeffery Taylor continued to be on one of the premiere perimeter players in the nation.
The 2009-10 Commodores finished the season with a 24-9 record, and a 12-4 mark in SEC play, Vanderbilt's best finish in league competition since 1993. The Commodores also were a handful on the road, winning six league games and sporting a 7-3 mark in true road contests. Vanderbilt swept Tennessee and Florida for the first time since 1966, and had four players named to an All-SEC postseason team.
The 2007-08 edition of the Commodores was one of the most successful teams of the Stallings era. Vanderbilt reeled off 16 consecutive wins to start the season, tied for the most wins in regular season history (25), advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, the first time since 1988-89 that has occurred, won 10 games in the SEC for the second consecutive season, and saw one of his four-year seniors, Shan Foster, capture SEC Player of the Year honors, the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, and become the school's all-time leading scorer. The Commodores tallied 25 regular season wins that year, which tied the 1992-93 team for the most in school history, and knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation for the second consecutive season.
The 2003-04 campaign saw the Commodores advance to their first NCAA Tournament since 1993, reaching the Phoenix Regional Semifinals before bowing out to Connecticut, the eventual national champion; and in 2006-07, the Commodores knocked off George Washington and Washington State before dropping a 66-65 decision to Georgetown in the East Regional Semifinals.
In 2003-04, Vanderbilt set a then-school record with a 12-0 start, knocked off five nationally ranked opponents and advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament -- all of this before reaching the "Big Dance" and concluding its run with a 23-10 overall mark. In 2006-07, Vanderbilt had the SEC Player of the Year in Derrick Byars and knocked off seven ranked opponents during the year.
In all, Stallings has coached in 11 postseason tournaments during his time at Vanderbilt, six NCAA tournaments and five NIT’s. The Commodores reached the NIT in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2015. In 2005 and 2015, the Commodores made the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Qualities of a Caring Coach
Throughout his tenure at Vanderbilt, Stallings has proven himself as a coach whose intensity from the bench and drive to compete matches his reputation as a talented tactician and his genuine concern for players. Since coming to Nashville, Stallings has embraced the Commodore basketball tradition while building a program based on quality players and dedicated students.
He has molded Commodore players into some of the finest in the SEC. Former Commodores Dan Langhi and Matt Freije blossomed under the direction of Stallings. Langhi earned the 2000 SEC Player of the Year award, while Freije became Vanderbilt's then-all-time leading scorer. Derrick Byars became Stallings' second player of the year in 2007, and wing Shan Foster became his third in 2008 and the program's first player to the 2,000-point barrier. Both Byars and Foster were second-round selections in the 2007 and 2008 NBA Draft, respectively. He and his staff also developed John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli into first-round draft picks in the 2012 NBA Draft, and Jeffery Taylor into the first pick of the second round of the same draft. In 2015, Ezeli won a world championship with the Golden State Warriors and played significant minutes for Golden State in their win over Cleveland in the NBA Finals.
At the same time, Stallings makes sure his players perform in the classroom.
At Vanderbilt, all 50 of his seniors either have earned or are currently working toward their college degree. While at Illinois State, five Redbirds achieved Academic All-America status; and all but two seniors earned their degree.
Since Stallings became head coach a Vanderbilt player has been named:
Coaching Tree Grows
As Stallings' career at Vanderbilt has blossomed, so has his coaching tree. In the last four years alone, two of his assistants have been elevated to head coaches, and since his arrival in Nashville prior to the 1999-2000 season, four of his assistant coaches have been head coaches or are currently at the helm of their own program. In 2012, longtime assistant Dan Muller assumed the reigns of his alma mater, Illinois State, and in 2011, King Rice was named the head coach at Monmouth. Other former assistants that have moved on include Tim Jankovich, who is now the coach-in-waiting at SMU. Additionally, Tom Richardson, who succeeded Stallings at Illinois State, came to Vanderbilt in 2004 and provides his head coaching experience to the current staff.
Track Record for Success
Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Stallings coached six seasons at Illinois State (1994-99) in his first head coaching opportunity. Following the most successful coach in school history, Stallings raised the program to higher standards taking four teams to postseason tournaments, including two trips to the NCAA Tournament. He became the first men's basketball coach in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference to win back-to-back regular season and conference tournament titles in 1997 and 1998. As the Redbirds head coach, Stallings averaged 21 wins a season, compiling a 123-63 record.
As an assistant coach, Stallings worked with two of the nation's most well-known and respected mentors - Gene Keady, his college coach at Purdue, and Roy Williams at Kansas.
After helping lead the Boilermakers as a player (1980-82) to three postseason tournament appearances, including a NCAA Final Four appearance in 1980, Stallings served as an assistant coach under Keady from 1983-88. On Keady's staff, Stallings helped direct Purdue to six NCAA Tournament appearances and three Big Ten championships while tallying a 140-44 overall record.
"More than anything, I think what Gene Keady taught me was that good teams have good players and great teams have great teammates," Stallings said. "I think his greatest strength was his ability to get a team to achieve as close to its potential as possible on a very consistent basis. That's because of his ability to motivate people to be a willing part of what he called `being a company man.' I believe in that and I believe in him. It's obvious that he was brilliant in that way."
Stallings left Purdue to join Williams' coaching staff at Kansas in 1989. Over the next five seasons, the Jayhawks made four NCAA Tournament appearances, enjoyed two trips to the Final Four, finished as the 1991 national runner-up and accumulated a 132-38 mark during Stallings' stay.
"The thorough nature in which Roy Williams approaches his job was the biggest aspect I took from my time at Kansas. Roy is very detailed, very organized and very meticulous. Not only is he a great coach and great recruiter, but he runs his program with precision and with great organization."
A 1978 graduate of Collinsville High School outside of St. Louis, Stallings played under the legendary Vergil Fletcher, who was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the 2004 summer.
Stallings earned his undergraduate degree in business management and marketing at Purdue in 1982 before receiving a Master's degree in counseling from Purdue in 1985. Stallings and his wife Lisa have three children: Jacob (25), Alexa (21) and Jordyn (15).
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