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New Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio happy to have sister aboard

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

When Suzie McConnell-Serio wanted to hire her sister, Kathy McConnell-Miller, to be the assistant head coach of the Pitt women's basketball team, she sought advice from her son, Peter.

“What do you think of me hiring Aunt Kathy?” Suzie said.

“I think it's great,” Peter said, “because she's not afraid of you.”The unique sibling rivalry between the sisters is rooted in their one-sided battles in the backyard of their Brookline home and in their mutual admiration.

“She was always better than me, so there was no contest,” McConnell-Miller said of her sister, the Olympian.

But McConnell-Miller — 14 months younger than her sister — made sure the games were memorable

“We couldn't play for very long,” McConnell-Serio said Thursday during a meet-and-greet reception at the University Club in Oakland, “because we would end up fighting. She would always get more physical, by far.”

McConnell-Miller's memory is a little different.

“She said I fouled her; I said I blocked it. I said I stole it. She said I knocked her over.”

Now, they are on the same team for the first time since they played together at Seton-La Salle High School.

“Whatever she did first, I did next,” McConnell-Miller said. “She first started playing on a boys team when she was in the second or third grade. I said ‘If Suzie can do it, I can do it.' ”

They agree that working together will be easier than it might look.

“I lot of people say to me, ‘I can't work with my sister,' ” McConnell-Miller said. “Well, your sister is not Suzie, and your sister is not one of the best players and coaches in the country.”

Even after McConnell-Serio accepted the Pitt job, there was no guarantee her sister would join her.

McConnell-Miller was comfortable coaching with the Tulsa Shock in the WNBA, and Suzie didn't have an opening until Dan Burt replaced her at Duquesne.

Then, Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson had to sign off on the hiring of a sibling. He quickly gave his approval, but he said he can't recall another set of siblings coaching at Pitt on the same team.

McConnell-Miller met all of the requirements. She had spent 21 years coaching college basketball and had the outgoing personality that made her a successful recruiter. Plus, the sisters had a close relationship, born of growing up in a close-knit family of eight.

“She is my best friend,” McConnell-Serio said, “and someone I would be able to say anything I want to without hurting her feelings.”

“The bonus,” McConnell-Miller said, “is she is my sister.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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