To the surprise of probably everyone, the Pitt basketball program is still looking for a men’s basketball coach.
Names such as Danny Hurley, Tom Crean, Thad Matta, Mark Schmidt, Nate Oats, Tim Cluess and Jon Scheyer have been mentioned but Pitt is still searching.
At this point, it appears that Heather Lyke has re-started the search and is reaching out to new names.
If Pitt isn’t able to land a “big name” coach, they might dip into the mid-major level or take a chance with an assistant coach.
Tonight, Pittsburgh Sports Now reached out to Kevin Sweeney from CBB Central, one of the leading sources for coverage of mid-major basketball.
PSN: This search for a coach has lasted longer than most have anticipated which has Pitt fans very uneasy. Does this surprise you and is this reason for concern?
Kevin Sweeney: It is somewhat concerning considering that it wasn’t a surprise that this job opened up. Heather Lyke had plenty of time to put together a good list of candidates to hire and a list of people that she felt would be interested in the job. From the outside, this has a feel that they were going for Danny Hurley and if they didn’t get him they were in trouble. At the same time, they can’t rush this either and hire someone you’ll eventually regret. Once you miss on your top target, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take your time and get the right guy for the program.
PSN: Do you believe the current state of the Pitt program calls for hiring an established coach or considering the rebuild that’s ahead, could a mid-major be the better option?
Kevin Sweeney: To me there’s a lot of guys at the mid-major level that can win there. I think they’ll obviously be a bit of a learning curve in terms of recruiting at a major level. Certainly it’s a bit harder to recruit at Pitt being in the ACC as you try to do so against schools like North Carolina and Duke. At the same time, I think there’s something to be said for a mid-major coach like Nate Oates or Tim Cluess who have just won throughout their tenures. Nate Oates is someone who’s recruited well, as this year he’s got two 4-star players in his recruiting class at Buffalo. I don’t think going after a big name just to get a big name is the right thing. It’s more important to try and win games than it is to win the press conference. I think Pitt’s in the battle right now with their fans because they’re really frustrated. It seems like every name that’s brought up gets criticized which puts the athletic department in a tough position. They need to bring in a coach that can win and stabilize the program but if the fans don’t believe in him, that will set him back from the start.
PSN: Nate Oats has been a name that’s been mentioned from the start. Why would he be a good fit at Pitt?
Kevin Sweeney: Nate Oats is a young guy who recruits very well as I mentioned previously with his recruiting class this year at Buffalo. If you look at his roster, it’s very athletic and I think that’s what you’d need to win in the ACC. I also think he’s a leader and would be able to hire a really good staff at Pittsburgh. One thing that might concern me is that he inherited a very good program from Bobby Hurley and has never had to build from the ground up and when you look at Pitt, this is a program that will truly have to build from the ground up. This is something that will have to start from the beginning and Nate Oats has never had to do that. That being said, I think he’d do a good job because I think he’d be able to bring in good talent.
PSN: Give me a name that hasn’t been mentioned much or at all, that you think would be a good fit?
Kevin Sweeney: John Becker from Vermont. He’s a guy that in January and February was being talked about at Pittsburgh and then he lost in the conference championship game on a buzzer beater against UMBC and a lot of that momentum went away. Becker certainly wouldn’t be a flashy hire and wouldn’t come immediately and energize the fan base but he’s a guy that’s just won. He recruits extremely solid, recruits in the Midwest and the Northeast. He’s a guy who in my opinion makes every guy a star in his role. He develops his players, would be a grinder and would rebuild that program. It might take some time but he’d bring in the right staff that would recruit for him. Pitt could do a lot worse than hiring John Becker.