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Pitt will hire Keith Gavin as next wrestling coach, per reports

Pitt's long and winding road in search of a new wrestling head coach finally seems to have come to an end on Thursday. At least we think so. Reports state that former Pitt grappler Keith Gavin has gotten the job.

Pitt hasn't given any official word yet but Oklahoma's official site posted the news earlier. When you click the link, however, the page is no longer there. Perhaps it's just a glitch but my guess is that they pulled the page until Pitt makes the announcement official.

That announcement, by the way, it seems, is being delayed in lieu of the news that Dan Rooney passed away earlier today.

That last link was courtesy of Knops Knotes on Twitter, who has probably had the best/most accurate news out there on this fiasco. And I believe it was him who had the first news of the hiring:

#BreakingNews @keithgavin84 to be named @Pitt_WRES coach — Knops Knotes (@KnopsKnotes) April 13, 2017

FloWrestling also reports that Gavin is the pick. And also, here's his bio if you want to know more.

Assuming Gavin is indeed the next coach, what do I think?

If you've been following my thoughts on the situation, you know that I always thought it was a good enough job to land a quality, proven coach. I still believe that. There are a lot of rumors as to what Pitt could have had with Pat Santoro or Tim Flynn. And if they could have had either of those guys, I'm guessing that even the most ardent Gavin supporters would say it was a missed opportunity. And, for what it's worth, they also reportedly offered and were subsequently rebuffed by San Diego State (yes, San Diego State) head coach Chris Bono, who was the Big 12 Coach of the Year. Any of those three guys would have probably made a good 80% of the wrestling fanbase happy as they had proven, head coaching success. This one's going to be more divided.

The Pitt job, I still insist, can be a great one. The school sits in the state with the best recruiting territory in the country. They compete in the ACC, which is a winnable conference as Pitt proved a few years ago winning it in their first season. While the team has not been great itself lately, they are routinely a Top 25 program so a new coach wouldn't be starting from scratch. And, while you might not know it, as the search proved there are actually a decent amount of people that follow the sport in the area. It has to be a very attractive job for almost any assistant and, if you throw money at it, would be very attractive for any number of great head coaches. Three of them, apparently, felt it was worth the time to interview, after all.

Given that it is a pretty good job, landing a quality coach with experience shouldn't have been the tooth-pulling exercise it appears to have been.

Now, to Gavin specifically, it could turn out to be a very good hire and there are some things to like here.

First, he was a Pitt grad and while not the be all end all, it's nice to know that he's not going to be leaving to head to an Alma Mater anywhere else. That always has some value as far as hoping to keep successful coaches and he is familiar with the school and its selling points. He was not only a wrestler here, but one of the best in school history. He won a national championship at Pitt in 2008 and was a runner-up the year before. That type of stuff has to resonate, at least a little, with recruits. He's a young, up-and-comer, who could be here for a while. He comes to Pitt after being an assistant at Oklahoma and previously, Virginia and Pitt so he's been around several programs.

But given all of that, the one glaring hole is that he's still got very little actual experience. He was only an assistant at Virginia for two years and at Oklahoma only one. Before that he had one year of experience as an assistant at Pitt. Add it up and you have zero head coaching experience and four years of being an assistant. I mean, it's not nothing. It's just kind of ... there.

The argument, of course, is that everyone has to start somewhere. That plenty of assistants have gone on to incredible careers as head coaches. That, perhaps, all he needs is a chance. And all of that is or may be true. But as I said earlier, this isn't a lower-level job. It's not a job at a smaller school where you almost have to settle for an assistant and take chances on guys in most cases. This is a pretty decent gig that should (and did attract) proven head coaches. And when you consider that, it's just a tepid hire at best given his lack of experience. Sure, you might really like him. And sure, you might think he's a great pick. But it really gets difficult to argue that it's a better hire than getting a proven guy like Santoro or Flynn.

Now, if this was the guy they wanted from the start, perhaps I feel a little differently. After all, if you've been targeting an assistant that you feel is under the radar and your top candidate, that's different. But given that Pitt reportedly interviewed several guys before landing on Gavin, that doesn't appear to be the case.

Hopefully he turns out to be a good one and, as someone who has come to love the sport, I wish him the best, obviously since I want to see Pitt win more. I'm in the corner of any Pitt coach and really hope he turns out to be a good one. But given his lack of experience, it's just sort of a shot in the dark.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll How do you feel about the Keith Gavin hire? Slam Dunk - great choice Good choice Decent Below average Ugh What is this wrasslin' nonsense?   0 votes | Results

Pitt Blue-Gold Spring Game draft held and honorary coaches named as practices come to a close

Pitt's spring practices are wrapping up with the Blue-Gold game to be held Saturday. Here was the preliminary information in case you hadn't seen it yet. I won't be in town but Jim will be down at the game and should have an update at some point afterwards.

The draft was held for the game yesterday, which is fine. For me, it's hard to get too interested up over something like this, but I know there's some interest among the fans. You can see the full team rosters here and if you wanted to see the order of picks, the Pitt Twitter account has a rundown of those. Coaches assigned all of the seniors to teams prior to the draft and then offensive tackle Brian O'Neill was the first overall pick.

Pitt also brought back the honorary coaches thing again. This year's picks there are Tyler Boyd and Jabaal Sheard, although the initial release didn't say which guy would captain which team.

As for the rest of the spring, it was mostly uneventful and I suppose that's a good thing. With practices mostly closed off to the media, there's not a ton of information out there, anyway. One of the bigger developments was probably the anticipated move of Jordan Whitehead to free safety, which should allow him to make more big plays. Other than that, however, I'm not sure too many relevant things really happened other than the insertion of the offense of new coordinator Shawn Watson. Fall camp should give us a better indication of where this team stands before the season begins.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt infielder McKayla Taylor named ACC Softball Player of the Week

Pitt's softball team has struggled a good bit this season but still sits five games over the .500 mark and is 21-16 on the year. That's in part due to winning their last four games, which included a sweep of Virginia Tech last weekend.

Over that stretch, shortstop/infielder McKayla Taylor has been on fire. She hit a home run in each of the four games (four of her six hits were long balls) and she had a total of seven RBI and scored six runs while batting .400. For her efforts, she was named as the ACC Player of the Week.

At only 4-11 in conference play, Pitt has a long way to go to move up drastically in the standings. But they also have a good opportunity to begin that climb with a series against Syracuse (19-15 / 3-9 in conference) this weekend.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt will face Navy as part of Veterans Classic in 2017-18 season opener

Pitt's 2017-18 basketball season is a while off with this year's season just ended. But the Panthers' first opponent is now known as the team will face Navy in the season opener. The game is part of the Veterans Classic, in which Alabama and Memphis will also play.

The games will be on November 10th and played at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Alabama and Memphis will tip off at 6:30 p.m. with Pitt and Navy playing at 9:00 p.m.

Obligatory Kevin Stallings statement from the Pitt press release:

"We are honored to compete against Navy in the 2017 Veterans Classic," said head coach Kevin Stallings. "The opportunity to interact with and observe the dedication and drive of the men and women in the United States Naval Academy will have a lasting impact on our young team. We have an unbelievable level of respect for those who protect our country and it will be invaluable for our guys to witness their selfless service."

This is the fourth year for the Veterans Classic. Tickets are $50 - $75 each if you're thinking of heading down.

Games will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, which, depending on how you think Pitt might fare next season and in that game, could be a good or bad thing.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Major programs pursuing Pitt basketball transfer Cameron Johnson

I haven't really tried to keep up with the status of Pitt's basketball transfers. Mostly, the stuff about where they'd end up just didn't matter all that much to me. But when I opened up the Post-Gazette and saw that Kentucky was a potential suitor for Cameron Johnson, I practically lost the lunch I had a few hours ago.

Kentucky, and plenty of big-time programs, are after the former Pitt player:

Early indications are that Johnson might have his pick of major programs, for the most part. Friday morning, a recruiting reporter tweeted that Johnson has 20 offers already, including Arizona (coached by former Pitt standout Sean Miller), Texas, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan and even TCU, where former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon now resides. ... But perhaps the most intriguing school to surface so far in the Johnson rumor mill is Kentucky, where John Calipari also has reportedly extended an offer for the immediately-eligible graduate-transfer guard to join his perennial power. Kyle Tucker, who covers Kentucky for, even wrote that there’s a “good chance” Johnson lands in Lexington, citing a source.

Something tells me Jamie Dixon is going to have a harder time getting him this time around than before when Pitt had much less competition.

I don't hate Cam for this. I really don't. But given how much interest there is not only nationally, but from the kinds of programs there are, it's all just really kind of annoying. And yeah, if I'm being honest, it makes hate the Kevin Stallings hire that much more. Sue me.

That there's so much interest isn't all that surprising when you consider how late in the game it is for getting guys for next year. And consider the types of players you usually see out there as transfers. The kind of players, for example, that Pitt has gotten. Now, consider what Cam brings to the table in that he has two years of eligibility left, can play immediately, is a good three-point shooter, and is a big guard.

It's also worth pointing out that Cam is much more battle tested than a lot of the types of transfers you see out there. Most of those guys are lesser players on big programs or better players at small programs. Look at Trey Zeigler, a guy that Pitt fans were excited about. He lit it up at Central Michigan, scoring more than 16 points a game in his first two seasons and, no offense to him, struggled to make any kind of an impact here at Pitt. Look at Rafa Maia, a rebounding machine in the Ivy League, who could barely get off the bench here. Doing what Cam did last year as only a sophomore is really impressive and it's no wonder he's being pursued.


Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Suzie McConnell-Serio opens up about Brenna Wise transfer

Recently, Pitt basketball star Brenna Wise decided to transfer out of the Panthers' program. While the men's transfers were mostly expected, Wise's departure was a pretty big shock since she'd been the face of the team.

At the time, I looked into the carefully-worded statement from head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio since it seemed like there was a little more there than the usual, 'We wish player 'X' much success as they leave the program' type of deal. McConnell-Serio talked a little more about that and, well, it's clear that there's a little bit of friction there, per this Pittsburgh Sports Now article:

"I think what she said in the paper, what she told me, is that for her to accomplish her goals, that she needs to go somewhere else. Ironically, when you're the face of the program and you're a team's leading scorer, leading rebounder, I'm not sure what those goals are specifically. She would have to answer to that." ... I want people here that have two feet in. I want people that buy into our system, believe in us as coaches, have two feet in and want to be here at Pitt."

There's a lot more there in the link so it's worth a full read. McConnell-Serio does go on to talk more about Wise doing a lot of things the right way and working hard, so this isn't a total slam job. But as I said before, the initial press statement that talked about finding team-oriented athletes was just an odd one if there was no friction.

Personally, I didn't have a problem with the initial statement or with these follow-up comments. She didn't completely slam Wise, but at the same time, wanted to make it clear that she thought that Wise hadn't bought completely in. It's not up to me to decide if that's true or not but I don't have a problem with a head coach making those kinds of statements in general.

Now, if it happens several times, then maybe that's an issue where you look at the coach and wonder if they know what they're doing. But at the end of the day, I'm still pretty sold on McConnell-Serio despite these two down years they've had. I'm not saying Wise wasn't a good teammate, etc., at all. Who knows? But this may have just been a case where a coach and player didn't see eye to eye.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt Football Spring Practices: Sorting out the Panthers' Quarterbacks

Pitt football's spring practices continue with another week until the spring game. The team has another (closed) scrimmage this weekend before next week's practices and spring game.

One topic discussed after a recent practice was the pecking order of the quarterbacks. Head coach Pat Narduzzi was pretty tight-lipped but offensive coordinator Shawn Watson gave a little bit of insight. There's some separation between the four guys, according to both of them. Only one wanted to talk about it, though, and that was Watson.

So, who's leading right now? "I think the two older guys, because of experience," said Watson. Those older guys, by the way, are senior transfer Max Browne and redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci.

When asked about the separation, Watson elaborated a little.

"Yeah, it's Max [Browne] and Ben [DiNucci]," added Watson. "Then Thomas [MacVittie] and Kenny [Pickett] came right along with them."

I found it amusing that Watson gave some insight and that same day, Narduzzi actually talked about the media not knowing who was leading because there weren't any leaks in the office.

"I think there's some separation," said Narduzzi. "Every day we talk about ‘Okay, who is the starting QB after today?' in the staff room. It's good that you don't know; it means we have no leaks in the office."


In all seriousness, though, none of this matters all that much. As I said when Pitt landed Tom Savage, he didn't come all the way across the country to transfer to Pitt and sit on the bench. I'm convinced that there was an understanding, whether implied or expressed verbally, that if he came here, he would start. Why would he come here just to compete for a job in his last year?

It's similar to the Browne situation. Pitt doesn't land a kid like that from USC with merely the hope of playing in his final year. There are a million places he could have gone. Unless he absolutely stinks up the joint in training camp or DiNucci turns into the second coming of Dan Marino, Browne is going to be the guy.

I don't even mind the game of cat and mouse that Narduzzi likes to play with trying to keep everyone in the dark about everything. As I've said before, that works when you're winning games and Narduzzi has won games. Pitt will eventually need to break out and get to that nine or ten-win level but there's no doubt that the program has improved under his watch and he also has some very nice wins on his resume like beating rival Penn State and taking down Clemson on the road.

Trying to keep everything secretive and closed off can be a little obnoxious, I suppose. But that won't really start getting under the skin of fans if he's successful.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt baseball tops Penn State, continues momentum

The Pitt baseball team continued its momentum on Tuesday, defeating Penn State, 3-2 at home. The Panthers (14-12) got a little timely hitting and some strong pitching to pick up another win.

One of the highlights was football coach Pat Narduzzi throwing out the first pitch. One of the lowlights? Someone apparently didn't get Narduzzi's proper size as that jersey looks like a pretty tight fit.

The win over the Nittany Lions is just the latest in a mini-resurgence after a slow start. A couple of weekends back, the Panthers swept Virginia Tech in a three-game series. And while they dropped a non-conference game to West Virginia after that, they went on to take two out of three from Duke and then beat Penn State this week. Add it all up and the Panthers have won six of their last eight contests.

And don't look now, but the Panthers' 6-6 ACC record has them tied for second in the Coastal.

The Panthers probably aren't going to be challenging for an ACC title this year and the schedule does get more difficult. Right now, they're just scrapping out wins with a limited roster. They don't have anyone hitting even .280 and their .234 team batting average is among the worst in college baseball. Plus, after the departure of first-round MLB draft pick T.J. Zeuch, the rotation is missing a truly dominant ace. The staff has been solid and the pitching is ahead of the hitting, but there's work to be done there, too. But for now, anyway, the team is at least competing and on a bit of a streak.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Tar Heels return home with 6th NCAA title to celebrating fans

North Carolina dedicated the past year to redeeming itself for 4.7 agonizing seconds.

Now these Tar Heels will hang another banner from the Smith Center rafters. Or the ceiling. But probably not the roof.

No longer haunted by the memory of a buzzer-beating loss in last year's title game, but galvanized by a misstatement from their most decorated former player, the Tar Heels returned home Tuesday with their sixth NCAA Tournament trophy, which they earned a night earlier by beating Gonzaga in the championship game.

"This year," senior Isaiah Hicks said, "we did it."

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Thousands of fans poured into the arena and onto the court before the team's flight had even landed at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and they cheered fanatically every time live footage of the team's motorcade was shown on the video scoreboards.

When the individual players were introduced, they showered Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Justin Jackson with chants of "one more year."

"It just didn't seem like we were going to get back to where we wanted to be, and you all did a great job," said guard Joel Berry II, still wearing the net from the title game around his neck. "We just basically did our thing, and we came back home with it."

This was the first time the team and its fans were together inside the Smith Center since a victory over Duke in the regular-season finale exactly one month earlier — a night made memorable by Michael Jordan's surprise appearance at halftime to announce a partnership between the athletic department and his Nike line.

Read more here

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