The trending name in Pittsburgh today has been St. Bonaventure basketball coach Mark Schmidt. Multiple outlets have reported that in the last 48 hours, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke has formally interviewed Schmidt for Pitt’s heading coaching position.
For the last 10 years, J.P. Butler has been the St. Bonaventure basketball beat writer for the Olean Times Herald and Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke to him to get his thoughts on Schmidt.
PSN: Does it surprise you that the name Mark Schmidt has surfaced as a potential candidate for the Pitt job?
JP Butler: “I’m kind of surprised but also not surprised. It sort of makes sense to see his name attached for this job from the standpoint he previously coached in Pittsburgh at Robert Morris and his wife is from the area.
“He’s done an unbelievable job of rebuilding a St. Bonaventure program that was left for dead 11 years ago upon his arrival. Now, he has this program as one of the top teams in the conference. From those standpoints, it’s not totally surprising, but it is in a way on both sides. For Schmidt, that he would be willing to take this on, a rebuilding job of this magnitude at this point in his career when he’s got such as cushy situation at St. Bonaventure. From Pitt’s standpoint, for me for an ACC program like that, I’d think they’d be looking for that young up-and-coming type or a really established coach that might be in between jobs, like a Tom Crean type name and Schmidt is neither of those things.”
PSN: You mentioned you’d be surprised if Schmidt would be interested in taking on a rebuild, is that because of his age (55) or because of trying to rebuild a program in the ACC?
Butler: “This Pitt job isn’t St. Bonaventure, where he was given all the time he needed to build this thing back up and be successful. He eventually was able to do that. This is a team that’s been on the bubble or in the tournament 3 of the past 7 years, which is pretty unheard of for a place like St. Bonaventure.
“It’s not going to be like that at Pittsburgh. This is an ACC program, you are competing and recruiting against ACC teams and a handful of Hall of Fame coaches. You’re not going to have that same leash. (Pitt) is a program that’s going to want to see tangible results after two or three years and I don’t know that he’d be able to do that because he would need time to build things up and recruit the type of players in order to do that and that alone might take a couple of years. At that point, they might say we haven’t seen enough, you’re out. That’s why, even with the money, I’d be surprised if he’d be willing to do this.”
PSN: What is Mark Schmidt’s biggest strength as a basketball coach?
Butler: “I think his best attribute is his ability to develop players, because as we know, it’s very hard to recruit to Olean, New York. He’s not getting that 3- and 4-star recruit. A lot of times he’s not getting the type of players that are being offered by other A-10 programs. He’s finding under-the-radar guys that are under-recruited, who he feels have big upside and that he can get them here and work with them to get them to a point where they become good and sometimes great A-10 players.
“There’s a laundry list of names of guys that have come in unheralded, never heard of and by their junior, senior season are really good players and have kept this team at the top of the conference. Even with this year’s team, the two studs Jaylen Adams, who might be an NBA draft pick, this is a guy that was originally headed to Jacksonville. He de-commits from there, St. Bonnie gets him and he becomes a star. Matt Mobley was a transfer from Central Connecticut State. There have been other guys in the past, Dion Wright, didn’t have an offer and was an all-conference guy by the time he graduates.
“Also, Mark’s preparation. He knows that they’re not going to always out-talent guys and so with him, preparation is such a big key. He’s so well-prepared going into every game and his game plan is what’s always given them a chance.”
PSN: You mentioned recruiting and he’s gotten and developed a lot of underrated talent but in the ACC, he would need to be able to recruit better talent to win. Is he known potentially as a good recruiter or could that be a potential issue?
JP Butler– “It could be and that’s where the staff he’d have in place would be a huge, huge part of it. I don’t know if he would bring the staff that he has in place and if he does, I don’t know if, and no disrespect and this isn’t meant as a knock to his staff because they’ve done an unbelievable job here, but is that a staff that can come in and recruit at an ACC level? Can these assistants go out and out-recruit the staffs at Syracuse, and Roy Williams and Coach K, I don’t know if I can see that. One thing that I can say is that before he came here, Schmidt was an assistant at Xavier under Skip Prosser and he was his primary recruiting guy at that point and recruited a lot of big names.”
PSN: Speaking of Xavier, is the potential opening there a factor that could play into his decision?
JP Butler– “It could be. I don’t know what the interest level on Xavier’s part would be. That’s something that could be nixed pretty quickly if Xavier decides they want to go a bit above that sort of speak. To me, the Pitt thing for Schmidt would be something he’d have to wrestle with, as crazy as that might sound to Pitt fans, because of what he’d be giving up here for such an uncertain situation. I can tell you that the Xavier job would be an absolute no-brainer for Schmidt. He’d take it on the spot because that is where he really cut his teeth at this level and really learned under Skip Prosser, who he just adored so much.”