Pitt hires Herrion as assistant
Tom Herrion has a reputation in college basketball circles as a relentless recruiter, but he never had the fortune of pushing a proven product in his sales pitch.
When Herrion visited Petersen Events Center for the Pittsburgh JamFest last month, he was "blown away" by the atmosphere surrounding Pitt's men's basketball program.
After being hired as Pitt coach Jamie Dixon's top assistant Monday, Herrion is relishing the thought of recruiting for a Big East power with top-flight facilities.
"Obviously, I have confidence in my ability," Herrion said. "We've got some talented guys on staff and a great product. That's part of it, what you're trying to sell.
"I had not been in Petersen until the AAU event and I was blown away. It's the first time I've been at a place that they have facilities that are top of the line. You have not only a product, but a proven head coach and facilities."
Herrion, 39, replaces Mike Rice Jr., who left Pitt after one season to become head coach at Robert Morris. Rice was the third Pitt assistant under Dixon to leave for a head coaching job, following Barry Rohrssen (Manhattan) and Joe Lombardi (Indiana, Pa.).
Herrion most recently was head coach at College of Charleston, where he compiled an 80-38 record in four seasons, the best winning percentage in the Southern Conference in that span.
But Herrion never took the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament and was forced out last June, reportedly agreeing to a $787,000 buyout for the remaining four years of his contract. He spent the past year as a college basketball analyst for ESPN Regional and Comcast.
"I think the thing that sticks out is that he's had a very successful coaching career," Dixon said. "You're not usually hiring somebody who had a record like his. If anybody looks at his background, it obviously stands out."
Herrion has extensive ties to several of Pitt's top recruiting regions. Herrion played one season and coached for four at Division II Merrimack College (1989-94) in Massachusetts. He spent eight years as an assistant to Pete Gillen at Providence ('94-98) and Virginia (1999-2002), where Herrion recruited guards Roger Mason Jr. of the Washington Wizards and NBA hopeful J.R. Reynolds.
"Tom Herrion made his bones in this business as an assistant coach who was committed to getting players," Scout.com national recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "Before becoming a head coach, he was regarded as one of the finest lead recruiters in the country and helped Pete Gillen stock the cupboard during their tenure at (Virginia)."
Herrion comes from a family of basketball coaches. His older brother, Bill, is head coach at New Hampshire after stops at Drexel and East Carolina, where he coached Panthers senior guard Mike Cook. Their father, the late Jim Herrion, coached at Sacred Heart High in Yonkers, N.Y., before joining Power Memorial's Jack Donahue at Holy Cross and later coached Division III Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
"I like that he's a coach's son," Dixon said. "It's in the family, in the blood."
Dixon also is enamored with Herrion's up-tempo style of play, one the Panthers could implement after losing 7-footer Aaron Gray and 6-11 Levon Kendall to graduation.
"There's so many ways to be successful. We played a relatively aggressive, faster pace," Herrion said. "That's something Jamie mentioned that they're going to try to play faster because their personnel is going to be a little different. I'm going to be part of the coaching staff. If I can offer some philosophical opinions, that's fine, but Coach Dixon would be crazy to deviate too much, with the success that he's had."
Winning waysNew Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion compiled an 80-38 record in four seasons as coach at College of Charleston. Here is a year-by-year look:
2002-03 25-8 2003-04 20-9 2004-05 18-10 2005-06 17-11 Overall 80-38