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Pitt legend Charles Smith discusses Panthers’ struggles

Smith: “It’s just a rebuilding program. … It’s a little tough to watch.”

Former NBA Players Arrive In Beijing From North Korea Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Pitt great Charles Smith was back in Oakland for the Panthers’ matchup with Syracuse on Saturday, and in addition to being immortalized on a rally towel, he was honored at halftime.

“I always enjoy coming back to the university and seeing a lot of the fans who were here 30, 40 years ago,” Smith said, per Kevin Gorman of the Tribune-Review. “The university has grown so much. It’s so different. This Petersen Center is just phenomenal.”

Smith had an illustrious career at Pitt from 1984 to 1988, and he remains the program’s all-time leader in scoring and blocks. Alongside Jerome Lane, he led the Panthers to consecutive 20-win seasons in his final two college seasons, something Pitt fans wouldn’t see again until Ben Howland resurrected the program over a decade later.

With that said, things have obviously changed since Smith’s tenure at Pitt, and he discussed the current state of the program during his visit as well.

“It’s tough that they’re losing — and I know the fans struggle with that — but they’re going to have to deal with that for a little while,” Smith said. “You’ve got a new coach that came in, and a lot of players left because of that. It’s just a rebuilding program. … It’s a little tough to watch.”

Although the Panthers donned retro uniforms in honor of Smith’s return, they looked nothing like the iteration of the team that featured Smith and Lane, as they continued their winless streak in the ACC, falling 60-55 to Syracuse in their ninth conference loss of the season.

The Panthers will take the court again Wednesday night, when they face the Miami Hurricanes in Coral Gables, Florida. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.