Some interesting news broke Thursday night in that longtime Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano and the university have parted ways.
‘Parted ways’ is how it’s generally being reported right now. Several reports state that he was fired while others (including Craig Meyer of the Post-Gazette) state he has resigned. What everyone agrees on, though, is that Jordano is out and it does not seem to be of his own desire.
With 588 victories over 21 seasons, he was the program’s winningest coach and also the longest-tenured coach at Pitt across all sports. Beyond that, he has just been a great ambassador for the program in my eyes.
Jordano, though, by all indications, seemed like he was a coach that could be pushed out at some point. The program has not made much progress in the ACC since joining the conference in 2014. But when I really started to get nervous for him was after Suzie McConell-Serio was let go this spring. I actually tweeted back in April after that happened that Jordano’s seat at the time had to be feeling pretty warm. It just didn’t bode well for him.
But then Pitt made some progress this year. The Panthers finished the season at over .500 (29-26) for the first time in five years in the ACC despite a slide at the end of the regular season where they lost six straight games. They won four of their ACC series’ and then the unthinkable happened as Pitt not only beat higher-seeded Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament but shocked everyone by ousting top seed North Carolina to reach the semifinals. They ultimately lost to Louisville there but it was an impressive showing nonetheless.
That, by the way, was nearly a month ago. And that timeline is important because I figured that with so much time elapsing, he was probably safe by this point. Jordano, for what it’s worth, gave no indication of impending doom. He has been active on Twitter up to today and less than a week ago, had even mentioned he was very excited for the upcoming year.
Really excited about the 2018-19 season. Look forward to leading this group. Very talented SA’s combined with an incredible work ethics will produce great results. Improving every day. Greatness does not rest. #H2P— Coach Joe Jordano (@CoachJordano) June 15, 2018
That enthusiasm was easy to understand. Pitt lost some key players but had two very highly touted pitchers coming in that can help secure the future of the program. Both players were taken in this year’s MLB Draft but Pitt got a major boost as both decided to skip the pros and are headed here. I was concerned about the rotation next season after the loss of Matt Pidich but getting both of the incoming guys (Billy Corcoran and Mason Ronan) to stick made the loss more manageable and the future brighter.
If this had happened immediately after Pitt bowed out of the ACC Tournament, it would have been easier to understand. But this seems like a stringing along of sorts, no? I mean, by waiting nearly a month after the team’s season ended, you’ve maybe even potentially missed out on some possible replacements. That’s not me with any divine insight. Perhaps there were logistics involved that made an earlier firing unreasonable. Perhaps athletic director Heather Lyke wanted to take time to evaluate the decision. But nearly a month afterward just seems like a long time to pull the trigger.
I’ve got no real gripe with Pitt deciding it was time to move on from Jordano. After all, five years in the ACC was enough time to prove himself and even if it wasn’t realistic to expect the program to be winning conference titles by now, reaching only one ACC Tournament was pretty disappointing. It’s the timing here that has me scratching my head a little.
Whatever the logic, though, one thing remains abundantly clear. Lyke is not fooling around and that’s fine, to be honest. At the end of the day, coaches have to win and the baseball program, despite the progress made, wasn’t really doing enough of that. As I’ve said with any athletic director Pitt has ever had, they need to have the ability to bring in the coaches they believe will have the most success. It’s how those coaches perform that determines if they are doing a good job.
The message to Pitt coaches is clear right now. Even modest progress may not be enough to save your job and I have to imagine that many are feeling the pressure these days.