Initial thought? Crap.
Post-initial thoughts? Eh.
Look, this is a big deal. I'm not here to paint the picture that it's not. Ever since Steven Adams committed, we were all dreaming of a Birch-Adams frontcourt. Birch was perhaps Pitt's biggest recruit in recent memory and expected to become a star.
Thing is, it also seems on the surface that he's a bit immature.
This isn't a 'bash Khem' piece. I wish him well and hope his talent gets utilized somewhere else that can afford to play him a bit more. I have a hard time expecting college kids to act like adults because, they're not. Not really, anyway. I'll never forget one of my roommates in college discussing his new-found freedom as a college student, but ending by telling me he didn't feel like an adult. His parents were still supporting him and guess what? He's right. A 19-year old college kid may technically be an adult by the letter of the law, but there's no way that a college freshman can be considered one. Thus, stuff like this happens.
No one other than a select few really know the full reason for his departure, but I keep going back to those two tweets yesterday by Jermaine Dixon and Brad Wanamaker seemingly taking him to task for not wanting to earn minutes. The other thing that makes me want to believe it was about playing time is because Birch pointed out his lack of minutes in a recent article.
These aren't young, immature players shooting off at the mouth. They're past players who came in and busted their butts to make this a better program. They don't say that, in my opinion, unless there's some truth to it in my opinion.
So what do we think of Mr. Birch?
Again, it's difficult for me to be too hard. But I will say this: Even as a young kid, it's unfathomable to me how Birch doesn't see how Jamie Dixon operates and thinks it's going to be an easy road. College basketball, for one, was an entire level up for him. Big-time college basketball, which we have at Pitt, is even another step up. I wrote multiple times in the offseason that Birch starting right away probably wasn't realistic - that he could earn his way there eventually, but that Pitt was full of talent.
Birch clearly didn't think this was the case - he either grossly underestimated the talent at Pitt or overrated his own abilities.
The other thing of note is that Birch quit - and pretty easily, I might add. How do you come to the point where you quit on a program ten games into the season? Ten. Games. I'm sorry, I'm willing to give this kid a lot of leeway, but quitting that soon just shows a huge lack of effort. There's no other way to sugarcoat it. If he really felt this wasn't the place for him, it would have been nice if he at least finished the season and not only supported his teammates, but improved his overall game. Because of his attitude, he's forced Pitt into a bit of a difficult situation. This was, simply put, a selfish move.
I do wish him well, though. Seems like a nice kid and he obviously should be able to go where he's happy. He's a talented player and I hope things work out for him. Anyone ripping this kid to the point where they're resorting to name-calling or beating on him personally is nuts - get over it, things happen. Birch remained a class act after he left, and that's nice to see:
"I'm leaving," Birch told CBSSports.com on Friday night. "I'm headed to Toronto now. I enjoyed my time at Pittsburgh, I love Coach (Jamie) Dixon, had no problems with the staff and the players. It just wasn't the right fit for me."
Look, this program wasn't built on primadonnas - it was built on hard work by tough players who decided that mediocrity wasn't good enough. Pitt became a success story almost overnight, but they weren't able to sustain it overnight - it took hard work. Lots of it. This is the kind of place where you lay it all on the line, punch an opponent in the mouth, and then come back the next day and do it all over again. Jamie Dixon's made one thing clear - you don't come in as a superstar and be given anything.
You earn it.
Birch's departure isn't a program-killer, rest assured. It doesn't even crush Pitt's chances this season. Birch was starting to play better as I've noted, but recently, has been outplayed by Dante Taylor. What does this mean right now? You're up, Malcolm Gilbert. It appeared he was headed towards a redshirt, but virtually not shot of that happening now. Gilbert will get time, and almost immediately.
And one final thought - Pitt virtually lost out on Jaylen Bond in order to get Birch.
Yeah, that's just great. #ThanksKhem