ShareThis Page

Panthers make rare trip to West Coast

| Friday, Dec. 7, 2007

Pitt is leaving home for the holidays.

One day after making its shortest road trip of the season, the Pitt men's basketball team is departing for one of the longest journeys in the school's history.

The Panthers took off for Washington -- the state -- on Thursday afternoon, boarding a 2,500-mile chartered flight across the country to play the Pac-10 school for the first time in 57 years.

No. 12 Pitt (8-0) will play the University of Washington (4-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Panthers' first regular-season trip to the West Coast in more than a decade begins a road-weary December in which they will play only one home game from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1 (Oklahoma State on Dec. 15).

Pitt is playing four road/neutral games in December; no other team in the Big East has more. It's more December games away from home than Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse combined.

"That's what you get for playing (the first) seven (games) at home," coach Jamie Dixon said. "It's based around TV. All of these games are nationally televised. That's the reason. It's never going to be perfect to be flying five hours across the country."

Dixon said the flooding in Southwest Washington is not expected to affect the Panthers or the game at 10,000-seat Bank of America Arena.

The demanding December opened Wednesday night with a 73-68 victory over Duquesne at a sold-out Palumbo Center. Junior forward Sam Young said the extended road trips are exactly what Pitt needs after spending all of November playing at Petersen Events Center.

"It's time to stop being babied," Young said. "We got to get out there and learn to walk on our own."

Times have changed since the last time Pitt played at Washington.

In the winter of 1950, the Doc Carlson-coached Panthers traveled by train for a two-week, eight-game sojourn to the West Coast for one of the most bizarre road trips in the school's history.

The Panthers played at Minnesota, before hopping on the Olympian Hiawatha, a state-of-the-art train. On the way to the West Coast, they went through the snow-covered mountains of Idaho and Montana, seeing the sights from the unique glassed-in "Skytop" cars used for observation and sleeping

On the road
Pitt will travel more than 3,100 miles in December, from Duquesne to the cross-country trek to Seattle.
Date Opponent Site Miles
Dec. 5 Duquesne Pittsburgh 3
Dec. 8 Washington Seattle 2,500
Dec. 20 Duke Madison Square Garden 370
Dec. 29 Dayton Ohio 260

"We would walk upstairs and see the United States," said Dr. Mickey Zernich, 76, of Aliquippa, a retired orthopaedic surgeon and sophomore forward on the 1950-51 team.

Once on the West Coast, the Panthers played at then No. 12 Washington on back-to-back days, and at Oregon State on back-to-back days. They played at California the day after Christmas and at UCLA two days later. The team flew from Los Angeles to play at Iowa, before taking another two-day train ride back to Pittsburgh.

Pitt lost every game along the way, going 0-8.

"That was a long trip we took there," said George Hromanik, 78, of Freedom, a guard on the 1950-51 Pitt team.

The tour, which came two years after another one of Carlson's West Coast-by-train excursions, was not without adventure. While in Minnesota, the wheels on the train froze.

"We couldn't get the train started," Zernich said. "Here we are thinking about California, and we're freezing in Minnesota with nothing but light clothes."

Players recalled Hall of Fame coach Carlson holding a practice in a hotel ballroom on Christmas Day in Berkeley, Calif.

"It was a very educational trip," Zernich said. "We came back with a lot of education and no victories."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.