Pitt hires McConnell-Serio as women’s basketball coach

Published Apr 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm (Updated Apr 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm)

One of the most decorated players in women’s basketball, Suzie McConnell-Serio was named the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, April 12, 2013.

“From the WPIAL to the Olympics to the WNBA, Suzie McConnell-Serio is a true legend of the game,” Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said in making the announcement. “She has achieved tremendous success at all levels of basketball, both as a player and a coach.”

From Seton-La Salle High School, to Penn State, to Duquesne, and stops all over the world in between, McConnell-Serio marvels how her life has come full circle. “When you think about it, it’s been unbelievable. Amazing,” she said. Then added, “this is my last move.”

McConnell-Serio comes to Pitt via Duquesne University. The two-time Olympic medalist racked up a 123-68 record and led the Dukes to five straight WNIT appearances during a six-year stint on the Bluff. The Dukes were 24-8 this past season and posted an 11-3 record in the Atlantic 10.

Leaving Duquesne proved difficult for McConnell-Serio, who owns more than 300 career coaching victories. “Meeting with the players was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. I enjoyed my time at Duquesne and I told my players that they need to finish what they started.”

In starting over at Pitt, McConnell-Serio replaces Agnus Berenato, who was 161-149, and takes over a program that failed to win a Big East game this winter. Pitt finished 9-21 this season. The Panthers posted a 64-111 mark in the Big East under Berenato.

The Panthers are banking on McConnell-Serio as Pitt embarks on a new journey. The University will compete in Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

“Our program is on the cusp of a new era with new opportunities,” explained Pederson. “Suzie is the right person to lead us into that new era. We are all committed to her success and are very excited to begin working together.”

Donning Pitt sportswear, McConnell-Serio began working for the University, immediately. She made her first public appearance at Pitt’s annual spring football game. This year’s Blue-Gold game was held April 12 at Bethel Park High School, a scant few miles from McConnell-Serio’s home in Upper St. Clair.

Pittsburgh has always been home for the 46-year-old floor boss. The daughter of Tom and Susan McConnell grew up in Brookline. A Parade All-American, she attended Seton-La Salle High School and guided the Rebels to its first PIAA championship in girls’ basketball in 1984. She also played on the school’s WPIAL championship softball team.

McConnell-Serio went on to star at Penn State (1984-88) and set NCAA Division I records for career assists (1,307), assists in a season (355) and single-season assists per game (11.8). She became the first player in program history to be named a first team All-American and was also a four-time All-Atlantic 10 honoree. McConnell-Serio was the 1988 recipient of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, presented to the nation’s best senior player under 5-foot-8. The Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA Tournament each year of her career and had a four-year record of 95-33 (.742).

A two-time Olympian, she helped the United States capture the gold medal during the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul and a bronze in Barcelona in 1992. She has won five total medals for the USA as a player, including the 1991 World University Games (gold), 1986 FIBA World Championship (gold) and 1985 R. William Jones Cup (gold). In 2011, McConnell-Serio had her first USA Basketball coaching assignment, serving as an assistant for the USA Women’s World University Games Team that won gold.

She played and coached in the WNBA with the Cleveland Rockers and the Minnesota Lynz franchises. McConnell coached 13 seasons at Oakland Catholic and guided the Eagles to three state titles and two runner-up finishes.

Serio and her husband, Pete, have four children, Peter (22), Jordan (18), Mandy (17) and Madison (15).

McConnell-Serio comes from a famed basketball family. Her sister Kathy, who was her teammate on the 1984 Seton-La Salle state championship team, was the head coach at Tulsa (1999-05) and the University of Colorado (2006-10) before accepting her current position as an assistant coach with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock. She was also an assistant coach at the University of Illinois and Rutgers. Kathy gained her initial job in college basketball at the University of Pittsburgh as a recruiting coordinator during the 1991-92 season under Kirk Bruce. Kathy played in four NCAA Tournaments while at the University of Virginia.

Her brother Tom played two seasons at Davidson and was the head coach at Saint Francis (Pa.) University from 1992-99. He also has been an assistant coach at Wake Forest, Marquette and Dayton as well as an assistant women’s coach at the University of Colorado with sister Kathy. He currently is an assistant women’s coach at Old Dominion University.

Her brother Tim played at Waynesburg College and has served as the boys’ coach at Chartiers Valley High School since 1992, winning more than 400 career games. Sister Maureen, who also starred at Seton-La Salle, played at the University of Pittsburgh, lettering from 1989-91. McConnell-Serio’s nephew T.J. (Tim’s son) currently plays at the University of Arizona under Sean Miller, who played at Pitt.

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