Pitt Women's Basketball
Verdi Driven To Bring Success, Winning Back To Pitt
Since accepting the Pitt Women’s Basketball job, coach Tory Verdi has had to juggle multiple hats. Whether it be moving out of Massachusetts, finding a place to live in Pittsburgh, finding a staff, recruiting for this season, recruiting for next season, completing a schedule and so much more, to the point that he conceded if people looked at everything he was doing, they would consider him crazy.
“It’s not easy by any means,” Verdi admitted. “I’m swimming like hell to keep my head above water because I’m getting pulled in every single direction, but it’s all part of the job. I would not change it for anything. We’ll get there. I was able to have an unbelievable meeting with Shayla Scott, an alum who came into my office to talk about Pitt basketball. To see what it means to her and have that sense of pride, was everything. For me, it’s just great that I’m having these opportunities. Everything will settle and we’ll continue on, but I’d be lying to tell you that everything has been smooth right now. We will get there, but it is part of the process.”
Verdi has been known to take on coaching jobs some would consider challenging, but has consistently made those programs significantly better. In his latest example with UMass, he took a program which was consistently ranked at or towards the bottom of the Atlantic 10 and turned it into a powerhouse that made an NCAA Tournament, finished atop the conference in his final two seasons and appeared in the Atlantic 10 Championship game for three consecutive campaigns.
As Verdi builds his program, he does so with a transfer portal which allows him to find likeminded individuals who possess competitiveness, a want-to off the chart and also want to be a part of something special, while having two feet in.
Recently Verdi has identified two such individuals in JUCO transfer guard Mia Simpson and USC transfer guard Bella Perkins.
Verdi also has been filling his coaching staff, naming Candice Finley, Ty Margenthaler and LaKale Malone as assistant coaches, while Anthony Brammer will take over video and player development.
“The one thing I’m doing is bringing in experienced coaches that I know can come in and hit the ground running,” Verdi said. “I don’t need to coach them up or tell them what to do. They’re seasoned, this isn’t their first coaching job. That affords me the opportunity to meet with alums, with donors and meet with people in the community. Even though I’ve got so much going on, I’m able to figure out and prioritize the needs for that individual day and meet with those people. In my eyes, we’re not skipping a beat because we have all avenues covered at this point.”
The alumni aspect is one Verdi considers important, as he understands the sense of pride past players and community at large have with this program.
Verdi wants to make them proud and connected to the current program. He has stated that if they come to his office, they will get time with him and has promised that they are in this together and will all win together.
What a great morning – had the opportunity to visit with one of the best to play at Pitt! I want to hear from our Alums – I’m busy but will find the time for you! You matter – #InThisTogether pic.twitter.com/Zza2vPyNcD
— Tory Verdi (@CoachVerdiPitt) April 25, 2023
As it relates to the fans, Verdi states that he will be active on social media and understands that in order to achieve success, he has to earn their trust and support.
While he admitted it is not going to be perfect each time and could be a roller coaster, there is a request for an investment of support for the long haul, with the promise that when the team gets there, the feelings will be something which will never be forgotten.
“Our goal is to put a product onto the floor that they’re going to be super excited about,” Verdi said. “The ball may not go in the basket, but when they leave our games, they can say those kids play extremely hard and had the right attitude on the court. Those things are controllables. We will get there but that will be the start of the process. Our players deserve their support because they’re going to be working their tails off.”
Verdi remembers the start of his time at UMass when 150 people were in the stands, but by the end of last season, 4,000 fans attended, wanting to be part of something special.
It is his hope that people do not just come just when Pitt is winning, but show their support and investment from the opening tip.
“My message to our community is let’s not wait until year seven, let’s start this now,” Verdi said. “We’ve got to create a product, where we have a home-court advantage. When I say we’re in this together, that’s what they can bring, that when teams come here, they say ‘man we’ve got to go to Pitt’. We want our opponents to feel that and be rowdy and bring an environment that is not too inviting to our opponents. They ultimately will be our sixth man.”
Rising sophomore guard Marley Washenitz clearly possesses that investment and is a firm believer in Verdi both as a coach and person. She believes that finding the best version of herself alongside a good coaching staff was a big thing.
“I feel like as important as it is for myself because I can perform as well as I want but I also need to have somebody in my corner, telling me to do the right things, what I need to fix, guide me down the right path,” Washenitz said. “Coach Verdi was definitely a big reason why I did decide to stay at Pitt. I really liked him and his demeanor. He was 100% for sure for me, so if he got hired, I was 100% in and I’m really excited.”
At his introductory press conference, Verdi admitted that patience is a difficult thing for him but that he is driven and that defines his makeup, character and who he is.
“The university gave me a great opportunity and I’m not going to let them down,” he concluded. “I’m going to do everything in my power to turn this around and do something truly special. I think you can feel my passion and competitive spirit. I’m going to do everything in my power to make this be something special. If that means I’m not going to sleep at night, so be it. I am invested and going to do everything possible to make our community and our fan base here be extremely proud of what we’re doing.”