Former athletic director Steve Pederson took plenty of flak during his time at Pitt. But one thing he unmistakably got right was the hire of Suzie McConnell-Serio to the head post for the women's basketball program. Current athletic director Scott Barnes clearly recognizes what she brings to the table and last week, signed her to an extension. McConnell-Serio is now under contract through 2020-21.
Contracts these days don't mean much, but McConnell-Serio said in her initial press conference that the Pitt job would be her last. She's never budged from that and reiterated that stance after the announcement:
“I said when I was hired that this, Pittsburgh, is where my family is and where I grew up. It is where I want to live and Pitt is where I want to work the rest of my career, so this is exciting for us,” McConnell-Serio said. “And I appreciate the trust chancellor [Pat] Gallagher and our athletic director, Scott Barnes, have in me and the confidence they have in me.
“This is an opportunity to build on what we have done here and continue what we have started as we work to build the program.”
But it's not just the fact that she is committed to staying here. McConnell-Serio is legitimately turning the program around and making it easy to keep her. This year, in a season when not much was expected of the team, she led the Panthers to their first NCAA Tournament since 2009. The team went on to pull off a first-round upset before bowing out to national power Tennessee.
The program is also headed in the right direction since they are landing good talent. Before McConnell-Serio, Pitt sent Shavonte Zellous to the WNBA. This year, Brianna Kiesel was drafted by the Tulsa Shock. Improvement on the court combined with a presence in the pros will surely help McConnell-Serio as she continues to build the program.
And we're not talking success down the road. Pitt has the look of a program ready to win now. The Panthers lost Kiesel and Monica Wignot, but still return three starters and several freshmen that contributed last year - Pitt's 3rd, 4th, and 5th leading scorers, in fact, were first-year players.
Then there's the recruiting. The Panthers have had two consecutive ranked recruiting classes and this year, picked up the No. 22/31 class from ProspectsNation.com and ESPNW, respectively. Pitt isn't only poised to win this season, but for the next several years if their recruits pan out. That's a big 'if', of course, but regardless of the players Pitt has, McConnell-Serio has proven she can coach.
The women's basketball program is in good shape thanks to a key hire and with McConnell-Serio re-signing, things are looking up.