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Gorman: McConnell-Serio must make Pitt a perfect pick

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson couldn't resist taking a dig at an arch-rival while playfully poking fun at the Panthers' new women's basketball coach by calling out Suzie McConnell-Serio for questionable judgment in selecting a college.

What was intended as a wisecrack in a news conference full of them Friday also revealed a harsh reality for the Panthers.

Since the days when the pint-size point guard from Seton-La Salle picked Penn State, Pitt has played second fiddle in WPIAL women's basketball recruiting.

The elite local prospects tended to pick national powers like Connecticut, Maryland and Notre Dame instead of their hometown school. The Panthers could only watch as Swin Cash, Charel Allen, Madison Cable and, now, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough left.

To stop that trend as it makes a move to the ACC, Pitt put its program in the hands of a coach whose name resonates in women's hoops not only in Western Pennsylvania but worldwide.

Except for maybe the girls she will be recruiting, who are too young to remember her storied playing and coaching career.

“They have no idea,” McConnell-Serio said, knowing she is no longer being judged by her glory days but on what she does today.

Still, her resume is impeccable.

McConnell-Serio has won WPIAL and PIAA titles as a player at Seton-La Salle and a coach at Oakland Catholic, was an All-American and set NCAA assists records at Penn State, won Olympic gold and played and coached in the WNBA before leading Duquesne to five consecutive 20-win seasons.

“I'm someone who doesn't talk about myself or the success that I've had, unless I'm asked,” she said, before cracking, “I leave that to my assistants.”

Where McConnell-Serio and her staff recruited the WPIAL heavily at Duquesne, they will have to be more selective at Pitt.

Although she called Western Pennsylvania a “hotbed” for girls basketball, the truth is it produces plenty of mid-major types but few ACC-caliber prospects.

But to believe that Pitt hired McConnell-Serio strictly to recruit locally is shortsighted. She's proven to be a great coach, no matter the level, so there was no need to conduct a national search with an elite coach just a few miles down Forbes Avenue.

Pitt has a first-class facility in Petersen Events Center, top competition in the ACC and, now, a brand-name coach.

“We will hit the ground running,” McConnell-Serio promised. “We are committed to working as hard as we can to bring pride back to Pitt.”

An easy sell, she said. Almost as easy as this hire. Actually doing it at Pitt is the hard part.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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