Pitt hires Duquesne's McConnell-Serio as women's basketball coach
When Pitt women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio reported to work Friday — the first day at a new job — the man who hired her noticed an immediate change in the surroundings.
“I can feel today an energy in our department that I haven't felt for a little while, in terms of what we feel we are going to be able to do in women's basketball,” athletic director Steve Pederson said.
Pitt didn't have to reach far to find a replacement for fired coach Agnus Berenato, naming McConnell-Serio to the position after a search that lasted less than two weeks.
McConnell-Serio is a Brookline native and a member of one of the most accomplished basketball families in the city. Aside from winning two Olympic medals as a point guard on the U.S. team, she compiled a 123-68 record in six seasons at Duquesne University after leading Oakland Catholic to three PIAA Class AAAA championships.
McConnell-Serio, 46, signed a six-year contract, extracting an extra year from Pederson, who offered five.
“I wanted six because I am invested here,” she said. “This is my last job. I will be here as long as he will have me.”
Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon was among the people Pederson consulted during what he termed a “nationwide search.” Dixon, who has known the new Pitt women's coach for many years through the Coaches vs. Cancer program, told Pederson hiring McConnell-Serio was “a no-brainer.”
“It's very rare that the easy thing is the best thing, and this is that case,” Dixon said. “You think it's almost too obvious, too simple, but that's the case. It's pretty clear in my mind.”
Dixon said he told Pederson, “Let's not try to overthink this thing.”
Pitt junior point guard Brianna Kiesel said she was surprised when Berenato was fired.
“She had done a lot for the program,” Kiesel said. “We were in a little bit of lull where we just weren't winning. Hey, it happens, you know.”
McConnell-Serio said recruiting at Pitt will be “an easy sell” despite the team going winless in the Big East the past two seasons.
“The foundation is here, and now you are trying to add pieces and what that provides is an incredible opportunity for players,” she said. “If you are recruiting players to a team that hasn't been successful, that's something that you look for — an opportunity to play.”
McConnell-Serio will bring four members of her Duquesne staff to Pitt, including recruiting coordinator Dan Burt, videographer Lauren Reinshuttle and assistants Carmen Bruce and Lindsay Richards.
Bruce and Richards are daughters of former Pitt guards Kirk Bruce and Tom Richards. Lindsay Richards' brother Jason is a graduate manager for the Pitt men's program.
Three of McConnell-Serio's siblings — Kathy, Tom and Tim — are basketball coaches, and her sister Maureen played at Seton-La Salle High School and Pitt.
McConnell-Serio met with her former players just hours before Pitt's news conference.
“The hardest thing I had to do was say goodbye to the Duquesne team this morning,” she said, fighting back tears.