As of Monday afternoon, Barry Rohrssen's apparent move to Kentucky wasn't finalized just yet. However, the buzz around the Pitt assistant coach is higher than I remember seeing for any basketball assistant and he's seemingly on his way out, as Jim wrote a little bit ago.
There's good reason for the borderline panic - Rohrssen is known as a heck of a recruiter. He's been good (real good) for Pitt and is one of the primary reasons the Panthers have been an NCAA Tournament team every season. Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon have been the architects, but guys like Rohrssen and other assistants, such as Tom Herrion, have been the builders - finding the players those coaches have needed to make their system work.
For the immediate future, the most angst is regarding 2016 guard Mustapha Heron - a five-star player who is regarded as one of the best in the entire class and committed to Pitt earlier. As I wrote at the time, Rohrssen's ties to Heron and his family were pretty strong.
With so much hype surrounding Rohrssen and the potential move, I wanted to dig a little bit into the Panthers' recruiting classes with and without him to establish some kind of idea of his value to the program. We know he's important, but what a lot of fans are having difficulty with is finding out just how valuable he is.
Personally, my immediate reaction was that this is a huge blow to Pitt. But after looking a little closer at the classes in the Rohrssen/non-Rohrssen era, I've eased up a bit. That's not to say that his loss isn't a big one - only that Pitt's classes haven't exactly been lost without him on board.
I primarily used Rivals as our basis and this what I came up with for each class (key below). I went back to 2002 - the first class where Rohrssen's impact was when he was named as an assistant (prior to that, he was the Director of Basketball Operations).
|#9 class in the nation|
|Unranked, but all were three-star players
|#25 class in the nation|
|Unranked, but Brown was a four-star player while Wallace was a three|
|#26 in the nation|
|Unranked by Rivals, but #21 in the nation per ESPN|
|#25 in the nation|
|Unranked, but all three players were rated as three-stars|
|#20 in the nation|
|#12 in the nation|
|Unranked, but all were three-star players, except for Young who was a four|
|Unranked and all unrated except for Luther, who was a three-star|
Bold = Classes with Rohrssen's impact
Italics = Players rated as four-stars are above by either Rivals or Scout
Certainly a banal table that's somewhat lacking. Still, at least it offers a somewhat concrete look at Pitt's recruiting classes as a whole. What I didn't take into account were recruits that were 'landed' by specific coaches. Some of that information is kind of scarce and even when it's reported, a kid can connect with several coaches rather than just one.
With that out of the way, a few observations:
Rohrssen had some early success, which really has to be accounted for. Those were the earlier years of the program and landing better talent then when Pitt was less of a known commodity earns him some bonus points in my opinion.
On Rohrssen's classes as a whole, only two of his six were ranked in the top 25. If we're looking at overall class success, Pitt has actually done better without him.
The assistant also landed a few huge 'gets' for Pitt. At the time, Chris Taft was one guy that was absolutely huge. The 2005 class with Young and Fields was tremendous. Aaron Gray turned into an NBA player. He landed some big-time players in the grand scheme of things.
The biggest observation I had, though, was what the Panthers have been able to do without him.
Rohrssen left in early 2006 to take the Manhattan job and had no impact on the monster 2007 class that included Blair and Wanamaker. The following year Pitt had another impressive class with Gibbs, Woodall, and Robinson. The year after that, they landed their first McDonald's All-American in years with Taylor. Patterson and Zanna, who anchored this year's ranked team, were also there. Khem Birch and Steven Adams were two of the top big men in their classes and guys like James Robinson, Mike Young, and even Josh Newkirk could both turn out to be stars.
All players Pitt landed without Rohrssen.
Some of those guys have worked out and some haven't. The fact remains, though, that Pitt has been able to recruit well and still land some highly-desired players even minus the ballyhooed Rohrssen.
The argument here isn't that Rohrssen won't be missed or even that what he did was overrated. He was really one of the most important reasons the Pitt program was jump started in the first place and to try to devalue him on his way out would be foolish. However, it's equally unfair to discredit the work the rest of the recruiting staff did in his absence. Those guys put together five years of ranked (including the one at #26) classes in the seven seasons he wasn't around.
The real test will be replacing him with a qualified recruiter and much of that prior work was done by Tom Herrion, who is no longer around, among others. But if Pitt can bring Herrion back after he lost his job at Marshall, I'm hard pressed to think of why the program can't continue to have success.
The Rohrssen loss is a big one, but I'm not sure it's catastrophic.