Pitt's long and winding road in search of a new wrestling head coach finally seems to have come to an end on Thursday. At least we think so. Reports state that former Pitt grappler Keith Gavin has gotten the job.
Pitt hasn't given any official word yet but Oklahoma's official site posted the news earlier. When you click the link, however, the page is no longer there. Perhaps it's just a glitch but my guess is that they pulled the page until Pitt makes the announcement official.
That announcement, by the way, it seems, is being delayed in lieu of the news that Dan Rooney passed away earlier today.
That last link was courtesy of Knops Knotes on Twitter, who has probably had the best/most accurate news out there on this fiasco. And I believe it was him who had the first news of the hiring:
Assuming Gavin is indeed the next coach, what do I think?
If you've been following my thoughts on the situation, you know that I always thought it was a good enough job to land a quality, proven coach. I still believe that. There are a lot of rumors as to what Pitt could have had with Pat Santoro or Tim Flynn. And if they could have had either of those guys, I'm guessing that even the most ardent Gavin supporters would say it was a missed opportunity. And, for what it's worth, they also reportedly offered and were subsequently rebuffed by South Dakota State (yes, South Dakota State) head coach Chris Bono, who was the Big 12 Coach of the Year. Any of those three guys would have probably made a good 80% of the wrestling fanbase happy as they had proven, head coaching success. This one's going to be more divided.
The Pitt job, I still insist, can be a great one. The school sits in the state with the best recruiting territory in the country. They compete in the ACC, which is a winnable conference as Pitt proved a few years ago winning it in their first season. While the team has not been great itself lately, they are routinely a Top 25 program so a new coach wouldn't be starting from scratch. And, while you might not know it, as the search proved there are actually a decent amount of people that follow the sport in the area. It has to be a very attractive job for almost any assistant and, if you throw money at it, would be very attractive for any number of great head coaches. Three of them, apparently, felt it was worth the time to interview, after all.
Given that it is a pretty good job, landing a quality coach with experience shouldn't have been the tooth-pulling exercise it appears to have been.
Now, to Gavin specifically, it could turn out to be a very good hire and there are some things to like here.
First, he was a Pitt grad and while not the be all end all, it's nice to know that he's not going to be leaving to head to an Alma Mater anywhere else. That always has some value as far as hoping to keep successful coaches and he is familiar with the school and its selling points. He was not only a wrestler here, but one of the best in school history. He won a national championship at Pitt in 2008 and was a runner-up the year before. That type of stuff has to resonate, at least a little, with recruits. He's a young, up-and-comer, who could be here for a while. He comes to Pitt after being an assistant at Oklahoma and previously, Virginia and Pitt so he's been around several programs.
But given all of that, the one glaring hole is that he's still got very little actual experience. He was only an assistant at Virginia for two years and at Oklahoma only one. Before that he had one year of experience as an assistant at Pitt. Add it up and you have zero head coaching experience and four years of being an assistant. I mean, it's not nothing. It's just kind of ... there.
The argument, of course, is that everyone has to start somewhere. That plenty of assistants have gone on to incredible careers as head coaches. That, perhaps, all he needs is a chance. And all of that is or may be true. But as I said earlier, this isn't a lower-level job. It's not a job at a smaller school where you almost have to settle for an assistant and take chances on guys in most cases. This is a pretty decent gig that should (and did attract) proven head coaches. And when you consider that, it's just a tepid hire at best given his lack of experience. Sure, you might really like him. And sure, you might think he's a great pick. But it really gets difficult to argue that it's a better hire than getting a proven guy like Santoro or Flynn.
Now, if this was the guy they wanted from the start, perhaps I feel a little differently. After all, if you've been targeting an assistant that you feel is under the radar and your top candidate, that's different. But given that Pitt reportedly interviewed several guys before landing on Gavin, that doesn't appear to be the case.
Hopefully he turns out to be a good one and, as someone who has come to love the sport, I wish him the best, obviously since I want to see Pitt win more. I'm in the corner of any Pitt coach and really hope he turns out to be a good one. But given his lack of experience, it's just sort of a shot in the dark.