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Pitt Women's Basketball

Pitt WBB’s Four Returners Will Play Crucial Role In Determining Future Success



If anyone knows how small circles can run in college basketball, it would be Marley Washenitz. The Pitt Women’s Basketball rising sophomore nearly ended up a Massachusetts Minutewoman where she would have played for one Tory Verdi.

Now the two are on the same team with Verdi being the program’s new coach and Washenitz one of four returning players.

“I definitely saw on Twitter and social media different things about Coach Verdi, and I was really excited, but at the same time, you can’t pay too much attention in social media because things can get lost in translation,” Washenitz said about the coaching process. “I definitely heard some mentions of his name and they had some of us as players put in our thoughts and opinions throughout the process. I definitely voiced by opinions on Coach Verdi and then found out he had a relationship with (AD) Heather Lyke when they were both at Eastern Michigan… I’m just excited he’s the one that we picked.”

Photo credit: Washenitz Family

Prior to Verdi’s introductory press conference, of course he got to meet many of his now co-workers, but arguably the most important time spent was with the four players set to return to Pitt, Washenitz, Liatu King, Gabby Hutcherson and Aislin Malcolm.

Reflecting back on his meeting with these four, Verdi offered his longest answer in a 22-minute interview, immediately assessing that they want to win and change, but also stating how that can be accomplished.

Transparency is important to him and from day one he mentioned having to be different in how things are done, working harder than opponents each day which is also from a mindset and attitude standpoint. Moreso, it comes down to developing that rapport and relationship daily to where players will get to know Verdi outside of basketball, understanding him as a coach as well as from an expectation standpoint and then embracing that this process is going to be hard.

“It’s going to be different; it’s going to be hard and if you want to do something great, you have to embrace that,” stated Verdi. “It’s my job to develop that rapport and relationship with our players and it’s so important that I take the time to do that. You win because of your culture and if you don’t have that, you will not win. You get there by spending that quality time with your players and understanding them and what they need. Once you’re able to do that, the players understand they can handle the constructive criticism. It’s hard to accept constructive criticism, but when our players know I love and respect them, they know that what I’m giving them and saying to them is a way of me showing them that I love them, and I want them to be great.”

Verdi says that a lot of times players do deflect and shy away from constructive criticism, but he views this dialogue as something that comes from a good place in that if he is not talking to a player, then they should be concerned.

He concedes that he will challenge, prod and ultimately piss them off, because he is the opponent each day in hopes that once games start, that will be easier than anything done on the court.

The quartet had offered their input on several new coaches with Washenitz being very much in favor of Verdi, but now it was time for everything to come together.

Washenitz can see his passion and it was a big reason why she advocated for Verdi to be Pitt’s next coach.

“The way he cares, and you can tell, along with being a straight shooter, he definitely lets you know how he’s feeling, which is something we were looking for with our next head coach,” she said. “He’s someone who’s honest, straightforward and lets you know where you stand, so us players don’t go home wondering why we’re not playing or where we stand. He makes sure everyone is on the same page and knows their role.”

Since Verdi has been hired, Pitt has had two workouts, where the four players had the chance to run through what a practice may look like, while also having a better understanding of expectations.

“They need to be bought in,” Verdi assessed. “They say they want the results to change, I’m going to give them the vision and ingredients and they need to be bought in to that. I’ve already told them if they can’t do those things, then they can’t play here and can’t play for me. We have to do different things but they’re excited about this opportunity. I had the opportunity to work them out on the floor and spend time with them. They were so excited to be out on the floor and they tried very hard and did great things. It’s not perfect but all I want is their best. If I can get their best each and every day, that will lead to those successes down the road.”

Like Verdi, Washenitz understands that nothing comes easy. Yes, she expects to be critiqued and to hear some hard things, but also believes that having that honesty will be better in the long run.

“We can’t get better by sitting around and being told what we do well,” said Washenitz. “In those two workouts, I definitely learned a lot not only about myself as a player, but him as a coach. Seeing the way he worked us out the first time, with there being only four of us, we were a bit winded, but it was really good. He’s got a vision for each and every one of us players, where he wants us to play and how he wants us to perform. He’s going to set expectations for us and we’re going to set some for ourselves too. He’s going to hold us to those expectations and not let us fall beneath them. If we do, that’s going to be on us and maybe you’re in a position you don’t want to be in. He’ll hold us to those standards and make sure we exceed those.”

Verdi wants to win now and believes that process started when Lyke hired him, but it comes down to what choices are currently being made now to ensure future success.

By no means is Verdi assuring what wins and losses will look like, but his remarks reflect what Pitt can control, that way when the team hosts a West Virginia, travels down the street to face Duquesne or heads down to Florida, his team will have the best possible chance to secure victory.

“It’s about being proactive and doing everything prior to stepping on the court for a game,” he said. “Those are the little things and I do feel there is a correlation with how the academics are going. It’s like showing up on time to class, doing your work and turning things in. If you’re structured in that regard of your life, then the basketball piece is the same. It’s about getting on the court, being in the gym and developing your individual skillset. Anyone can get in the gym but we have to make sure we are doing the right things. My job is to teach them what we should be doing while we are in the gym. I’d rather have them in the gym 30-40 minutes going at game speed, taking game-speed shots and doing certain things. If you truly want to develop your skillset, this is what it should look like and feel like. You should be exhausted by the time you’re done. If you’re not, then you’re not getting better.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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