By hiring Suzie McConnell-Serio, the Panthers know what they are getting. They are getting a coach who is ‘Pittsburgh through and through’ and someone who will make the players work as hard as possible.
The Panthers have had some growing pains, however they have been a young team. That novelty will wear off as they will have seniors next year in Asia Logan and Ashlee Anderson who will be hungry to win and get Pitt’s ACC debut off to the right start.
Although she does not like to talk about it much, she has a great background of success as both a player and a coach. The Panthers are in need of a new voice and with McConnell-Serio they have that. While she is an up-tempo coach, she is willing to go out of her comfort zone as she did last season at Duquesne and focus on defense. The result was a fifth straight WNIT berth and some expressing disappointment that they did not make the NCAA Tournament.
From the beginning when Agnus Berenato was fired from the job, McConnell-Serio’s name was floating around. Once permission was given to interview her it was clear that she was the number one target. It took McConnell-Serio a week – seven days that included a private interview with Athletic Director Steve Pederson in his Heinz Field office and finally signing the contract Thursday in the car right outside Consol Energy Center where the Frozen Four was about to start. Considering McConnell-Serio and her Pittsburgh roots, it’s very ironic that a tour of Pittsburgh ultimately ended up with her accepting the job.
From a Duquesne perspective, it has to be hard. McConnell-Serio achieved great things at the university and the players clearly loved her. You could tell the feeling was mutual by the near tears McConnell-Serio shed. She worked hard to make the team what it was and it seemed to hurt the players that she left. They now have to move on and see who their new head coach would be. It will be someone new since the staff is gone and there may be an adjustment period there as well. It may make for an interesting City Game next season.
Despite this, McConnell-Serio remembered her youth when she was a big Pitt fan and a ‘Little Panther’. She knows the traditions well and said the right things.
There was humor but also seemed to be great hope. This is a transformation that will not be done overnight, this will take time. McConnell-Serio knows this and has brought four members of her coaching staff from Duquesne Carmen Bruce, Lindsay Richards, Dan Burt and Lauren Reinshuttle to make the transition easier.
I truly believe Pitt made the right hire and already McConnell-Serio will have contacts to make recruiting easier. She needs to make sure she does not lose current players. The players know they will need to adjust seeing McConnell-Serio on their side but I believe she will bring out the best in them and that ultimately will only strengthen the team.