Pitt Panthers Athletics: Assessing The ‘State Of The Union’


I had an incredible opportunity to attend the Erie Pitt Club’s “Night With the Panthers” event, and it was an extremely enlightening experience.

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Those on hand to speak and mingle were: Pat Bostick (MC), Pat Narduzzi, Jamie Dixon, and Suzie McConnell-Serio. A trio of coaches with a wealth of experience and a vision of excellence.

I would like to take the opportunity to break down each coach and what they delivered to the assembled congregation.

First, Head Football Coach, Pat Narduzzi:

Coach Narduzzi delivered a short but sweet message. What it ultimately came down to was correcting the mistakes and misuse’s of the given personnel from a season ago. Mainly, keeping James Conner on the field on most third downs. He almost gave a direct reference to the staff employed last season. A sly shot given to a highly offensive-minded staff under Paul Chryst.

Coach Pat Narduzzi along with myself.

My impressions of Pat were only solidified from what we have all been exposed to on various forms of social media. He is smart, passionate about all things football, and wants to deliver immediate success but understands the process. Realistically optimistic is the only real way to describe it. Making sure the crowd was aware, he shared that he and the staff will be spending the next several weeks watching tape and devising early plans for each opponent this coming season. Spending two days apiece on each opponent. He just loves his profession and the work needed to become successful.

He wants and expects to win an ACC Championship but knows their are holes to fill that can prevent that honor and will not shy from the challenge in his first year as head coach.

BREATH OF FRESH AIR! – A soothing and collective, AHHHHH!

Second, Men’s Head Basketball Coach, Jamie Dixon:

We are familiar with the overall debacle of the men’s basketball program from the 2014 season. What’s great about that, Coach Dixon wasn’t willing to back away from accepting responsibility and silently apologized with what we should look forward to next season with the incoming freshman, but mostly graduate transfers.  He understands and considers what we have come to expect when we consider basketball in the Peterson Events Center.

Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

My impressions from a live Jamie Dixon, he is comfortable. Not in a negative way, but in a way that it makes it seem that it is not all bad in Oakland and the basketball program.

Pardon my next comparison, but if you have ever watched the movie, “8 Mile” featuring the rapper, Eminem, you’ll understand.

In the final few “rap battles” that he partakes, he shines light on what the outsiders look in and see and capitalize on using his personal path to move on and progress as opposed to letting the outsiders use that information as ammunition against him. Well, that is what I took from his few minutes of speaking.

He knows the team wasn’t very good a season ago, addressed the concerns/misfortunes, and turned the page to why it will make them successful next season. Simply put, coach Dixon is not letting an underwhelming season in 2014 determine and dictate how he approaches 2015 and the years following.

Lastly, Women’s Head Basketball Coach, Suzie McConnell-Serio:

Going into the evening, I have never really taken the proper time to investigate exactly who Coach Serio was and her path to becoming the women’s head coach at Pitt.

Little was I aware, her resume’ is of high caliber. She gained and was rewarded for her dedication to the game as a coach of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx in 2004. From their, she had spent six seasons as Duquesne’s head basketball coach. Which later led her just down the road to Oakland and accepting the head coaching position at Pitt.

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

During her time to speak, I was blown away. She is extremely bold, carries it well, and yet blends in with others. Suzie doesn’t exhibit hubris or a sense of supremacy, rather just being herself and staying true to who she is as a person and channeling that into her coaching techniques.

It might seem minuscule, but with her basketball pedigree from top to bottom and looking back, I would have expected so much more, “This is my way, don’t like it, get out” kind of sense. Couldn’t have been farther from my imagination.

My impressions from getting to know coach Serio stood out more than the others. The university could not have a better overall person leading a single program. Much respect to Narduzzi and Dixon, but she is a special woman that can provide so much to the culture of not just the basketball program but the university as a whole.

She isn’t out for approval even after an incredible run to the NCAA Tournament after being picked to finish in the cellar of the ACC, instead she is in search of respect and letting her personality, coaching, and reputation speak for itself.

Well coach Serio, it is speaking loud and clear.

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  • Each coach echoed the other in a common manner, whether they directly mentioned it or not. That being education is the most focal aspect in the progress of the university. Just to prove that, as it came out that night, Pitt’s Academic Progress Rate(APR) was nothing short of exceptional. I believe, can’t remember exactly, Pitt was one of a total of sixteen different programs(out of a grand total of 351) to exceed the standard in all of its athletic programs. Which puts them in the same conversation as schools like: Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and other Ivy League institutions.

    Pitt is being put on the map in all facets with each coach playing a particular role. Greatest of all is they are doing it as a unit of one. It isn’t men’s basketball against the women’s basketball program or the football program against the baseball/softball programs, they are all communicating and functioning in unison. Reliance upon the other will pay dividends going forward. Especially in the sense of recruiting, driving continued donations/fundraising, and the furthering of enhancements university-wide.


    Others in attendance were: esteemed coach and nationally recognized recruiter, Bob Junko, heavy donator Jim Duratz, Pitt baseball pitcher Isaac Mattson, among many many others.

    I have to recognize former Panther quarterback, Pat Bostick. He did a tremendous job being the master of ceremonies and beyond that, going around and greeting a lot of those in attendance, including myself.

    Erie was the fourth city Pat Narduzzi has visited in the last couple weeks for an appearance to market himself and the program.

    Marketing and External Events university personnel were in attendance to engage with the guests and were receptive to feedback and provided some great details on future events and what to expect.

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