A Moment to Gloat or Schadenfreude w/ a dash of wishful thinking

By Steve DiMiceli

I'm curious. Is this the worst year for Pitt's athletic department since their re - commitment to athletics and resurgence?

Let's begin on December 7, 2010, the day Dave Wannstedt resigned as the head football coach. The writing was on the wall. His name was wearing thin on the recruiting front because his results on the field didn't match his reputation coming in. As it turns out, Pitt fans found out what NFL GM's already knew, Wannstedt was a mediocre game coach. After much fanfare to begin his Pitt coaching career, Wannstedt ended it very quietly.

Two weeks later, Michael Haywood was named the coach and two after that, he was fired for being scum. The gunslinger and former Tulsa coach Todd Graham rode into town shortly after Haywood was dismissed promising high octane offense. What they got was middle grade defense and a black petroleum sludge offense leading to a very mediocre 6-6 regular and an appearance in the Kohler Toilet's "Who Gives a Crap" Bowl. In a move about as baffling as Georgia Tech hiring Brian Gregory, Graham moved to Arizona St to prove once and for all that he is not a BCS caliber coach.

On the basketball front, Pitt went into the 2011 NCAA tournament as a number 1 seed for the second time in school history only to lose to eventual finalist Butler in the 2nd round due to tragic idiocy. Moving forward, they entered the season with high expectations from the national press and a blue chip freshman power forward Khem Birch. Birch and the team's top 25 ranking were gone by the New Year's Day. With point guard Travon Woodall out and the team playing uncharacteristically bad defense, Pitt went into a free fall that included losses to Wagner and DePaul. The team won a couple of big games, but they find themselves close to the wrong side of 100 in RPI and are currently bubble out for the NIT.

All of that aside, Duquesne women's basketball moved into the city's driver's seat. With their fourth straight win in the crosstown rivalry, the Dukes are an NCAA appearance away from undeniably being the best program in Pittsburgh.

Their were some positives for Pitt too. Paul Cryst appears to be a solid but unspectacular hire for football. At the very least, he should be on the job for more than 12 months. A bid to the ACC allows them to rejoin some of the other top Big East programs in a bigger, shinier but still overrated football conference. Pitt hoops should get smugger and even more elitist. This is of course if they recover. I predict another rough year for the Panthers next season with Ashton Gibbs leaving and no immediate interior upgrade in sight. Malcolm Gilbert seems to be a strong candidate, but will come in next year very green as will their next highly touted big man recruit. In the Big East, Pitt was a player. Now they will need to match wits with the biggest programs in men's basketball if they want to be anything but a second tier program to UNC, Duke and even Syracuse.

If all the Pitt programs continue to flounder and they could, I wonder if people across town will look back to  December 7, 2010 as the turning point for the athletic department. Steve Peterson's days might be numbered and personally, I'd already want him out as a Pitt fan. Will he be able to save to ship? I don't know at this point, but I don't think it's out of the question that he may have unleashed the Curse of the Stash on the Panthers.