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McConnell-Serio re-works successful system at Pitt

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio prepares for her first season.

New Pitt women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio has a great deal of confidence in her system that produced five consecutive 20-win seasons across town at Duquesne.

“As a coach, I always have high expectations,” McConnell-Serio said Thursday during media day. “Personally, I go into a season wanting to win 20-plus games. As a coach, you try to make them believe they're better than they are.”

Changing jobs while remaining in her native Western Pennsylvania, McConnell-Serio accepted the daunting challenge of turning around a Pitt program coming off three straight losing seasons while making the transition from the Big East to the ACC.

And while McConnell-Serio's system helped her craft an impressive resume at Duquesne, it's a system predicated on strong guard play and quickness. As a result, McConnell-Serio will have to scale down her system — at least in the beginning — to accommodate four post players, including 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman Marvandene “Bubbles” Anderson.

“We have a lot of work to be done,” McConnell-Serio said. “I've always played smaller and more up-tempo. When you have a player who's (6-11), that's not going to cut it. You're not going to be putting those players at the 3-point line to be an offensive threat.”

It's a delicate balance, but it's one that McConnell-Serio believes her roster can handle.

The offense will start with guards Brianna Kiesel and Ashlee Anderson. Kiesel is the team's leading returning scorer and top passer with 89 assists last season. Anderson has played in 91 career games, more than any current Pitt player.

“It will start with our guards,” said McConnell-Serio, who was the point guard for two U.S. Olympic teams. She also starred in the WNBA and set several NCAA assist records at Penn State. “Bri will dictate the tempo offensively. She will stop the ball defensively.”

“There's a lot for me to learn from her,” Kiesel said of her new coach. “(She) brought a different type of optimism to the team.”

Said McConnell-Serio: “We try not to talk about the record that this team had previously. That's behind us. We're looking for a fresh start in the ACC.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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