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Pitt Women's Basketball

6 names to watch for Pitt’s next women’s basketball coach



Pitt players huddle during a break in play against Clemson in the 2023 ACC Tournament in Greensboro. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

Pitt announced Friday morning that Lance White would not be returning as its head women’s basketball coach after five seasons.

The Panthers have now endured eight straight losing campaigns and they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015. Since joining the ACC in 2013, Pitt has posted a winning record in conference play just once.

Before taking the Pitt job, White was a heralded recruiter, bringing multiple players to Florida State that would go on to win NCAA Tournament games and be drafted by WNBA teams. His successes in Tallahassee proved to be unreplaceable at Pitt. White never won more than 11 games in a single season and accumulated 99 total losses.

White is the first hire by Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke that she has dismissed. Who she tabs next to lead the women’s basketball program could show what she thinks the program’s potential is, and what she expects it to be.

Here are several names to consider as Pitt looks for its next women’s basketball leader…

The former assistant: Caroline McCombs

McCombs has been in coaching for more than two decades and has been a winner at nearly every stop. She is currently in her second season as the head coach of George Washington, where she led the Colonials to a 18-12 regular season this year and a 9-7 mark in Atlantic-10 play – their best record in conference play in five seasons. Before GW, McCombs was the head coach at Stony Brook, where she turned the SeaWolves into a mid-major power as they posted winning records in six of her seven seasons at the helm. Before becoming a head coach, McCombs spent 15 seasons as an assistant and helped guide five teams to the NCAA Tournament. One of those teams was Pitt, where McCombs was an assistant from 2005 to 2010, helping Agnus Berenato’s Panthers go to three NCAA Tournaments and two Sweet 16s. McCombs grew up in Medina, Ohio, about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Multiple sources told Pittsburgh Sports Now that she’s interested in the job. Is Pitt interested in McCombs?

The AD connection: Tory Verdi

Verdi has spent his last seven seasons at UMass and is enjoying his best campaign there yet, leading the Minutewomen to a 24-5 regular season record and a 14-2 mark in A-10 play. Last season, he guided UMass to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. But before Verdi took the job in Amherst, he coached at Eastern Michigan – where Lyke was the AD for the majority of his tenure. Verdi turned EMU around in three seasons, taking the program from eight wins in his first year to 24 in his third year. Verdi has been a winner in the MAC and A-10. Does Lyke think he can win in the ACC too? 

The rising mid-major coach: Megan Griffith

The King of Prussia native is in the midst of leading Columbia to its second straight 20-plus-win season for the first time since at least the mid-1980s (that’s how far back the Sports Reference records go). She has transformed Columbia into a contender in the Ivy League to compete alongside the likes of Princeton, Penn and Harvard. Should Columbia win the Ivy League tournament this year, Griffith will have led the Lions to their first NCAA Tournament appearance ever. Hiring a coach from the Ivy League worked out pretty well for North Carolina, where Courtney Banghart has turned the Tar Heels back into a contender. Would it work for Pitt? This would be one of the biggest swings Pitt could take and would signal that the university is ready to invest majorly in women’s college basketball.

Another former assistant: Bridgette Mitchell

Mitchell was White’s recruiting coordinator at Pitt for two seasons, helping the Panthers land Tracey Hueston – the program’s highest-ranked recruit since it joined the ACC – and transfer Jayla Everett, who was an All-ACC selection in 2021. Mitchell left Pitt to become the head coach at Northeastern, where, in just her second season, she’s guided the Huskies to an 12-5 mark in CAA play – their best winning percentage in conference play in more than a decade. Before White hired her at Pitt, Mitchell had worked at James Madison and Siena, where she helped those programs make the postseason too. She played at Duke and was on the team in 2010 that won the ACC and made the Elite Eight. When she was hired at Northeastern, she received public praise from Jeff Capel, the former Blue Devil who is Pitt men’s basketball coach.

The ACC retread: Joanne P. McCallie

McCallie spent 13 mostly successful seasons at Duke where she won four regular season league titles and three tournament crowns, and took the Blue Devils to 10 NCAA Tournament appearances. McCallie resigned in the summer of 2020 with a year remaining on her contract when Duke chose not to give her an extension. Before landing at Duke in 2007, she coached at Michigan State — where she very briefly overlapped with Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi — for seven seasons and took the Spartans to a Final Four in 2005. Before that, she took Maine to the NCAA Tournament in six of her seven seasons there. McCallie is 57 and hasn’t coached since leaving Duke. She published a memoir and has done some public speaking in recent years. If the former two-time ACC Coach of the Year is interested in returning to the sidelines, would she consider a project like Pitt?

The wild card: Melanie Balcomb

Balcomb has not been a Division I head coach since 2015 but was a very successful one at Xavier and Vanderbilt. In 21 seasons, she guided her teams to the NCAA Tournament 15 times – including a trip to the Elite Eight with Xavier and two Sweet 16 appearances with Vandy. And she guided the Commodores to more than 300 wins and three SEC Tournament titles. After leaving Vanderbilt in 2016, she bounced around at various jobs, serving as the director of offensive analytics for South Carolina in the 2016-17 season (when the Gamecocks won the national championship), as the associate head coach at Texas Tech, and as an associate head coach at Purdue. This past season, the 60-year-old was the head coach at Division II Ohio Dominican, where the team went 6-21. Balcomb expressed interest in the West Virginia opening last season when Mike Carey retired, and multiple sources told Pittsburgh Sports Now she is interested in the Pitt job as well.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 year ago

Pitt should look at Carla Berube, former UCONN player, now coaching at Princeton.

1 year ago

McCombs parents are from Carmichaels, Greene County.

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