When Suzie McConnell-Serio was hired on April 12, 2013, she inherited a Pitt team that hadn't won a game in the Big East in its final two seasons before moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, arguably the best conference in the country.
But in just two short years, McConnell-Serio has turned Pitt into a perennial ACC and national contender. This past season she led Pitt to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as the Panthers went toe-to-toe with Tennessee on its home court.
After an 11-20 campaign in her first season with the Panthers, McConnell-Serio guided Pitt to a 20-12 overall record in 2014-15 and a mark of 9-7 in the ACC, which was good for seventh place overall in the league standings.
Not bad for a team that was picked to finish last in the ACC preseason polls.
A member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and a two-time Olympic medalist as a player, McConnell-Serio not only brought the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, but the tenth-seeded Panthers notched a first round victory over seventh-seeded and 17th-ranked Chattanooga, snapping the Mocs' 25-game winning streak.
For her efforts, McConnell-Serio was named a 2014-15 Naismith National Coach of the Year semifinalist.
McConnell-Serio has now won 20 games in six of the eight seasons she has been a coach. The only two years she did not win 20 games was in her first year of taking over a new program (2007-08 at Duquesne, 2013-14 at Pitt). She has a career coaching record of 154-100 (.606).
LEARNING FROM THE BEST:
Regarded as one of the best point guards to ever play the game, McConnell-Serio's knowledge of the position was no more evident than guiding point guard Brianna Kiesel to new heights, which resulted in Kiesel being selected 13th overall in the 2015 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock.
Kiesel's improvement was especially noticeable as a senior. She averaged 18.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists en route to being named a First Team All-ACC performer. Kiesel led the league in assist/turnover ratio during the regular season and ranked in the top-5 of five ACC statistical categories (points, assists, assist/turnover ratio, steals and free throw percentage).
Kiesel went on to be a WBCA Region 2 All-America nominee and became Pitt's second ever WNBA draft pick.
Before McConnell-Serio arrived, Kiesel averaged 14.2 points on 34.6 percent shooting and 3.0 assists per game. In Kiesel's final two years under the tutelage of McConnell-Serio, she averaged 17.4 points on 40 percent shooting and dished out 4.1 apg.
A WINNER AT EVERY LEVEL:
One of the most decorated players and coaches in women's basketball history, McConnell-Serio has been a winner at every level. Still the NCAA career leader in assists, McConnell-Serio has a Gold Medal from the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and a Bronze Medal from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
McConnell-Serio played in the WNBA from 1998-2000, and then coached the Minnesota Lynx from 2003-05 where she was named WNBA Coach of the Year in 2004. In 2011, McConnell-Serio was an assistant coach for Team USA who won the Gold Medal at the World University Games.
Prior to joining the Panthers, McConnell-Serio spent six years at neighboring Duquesne University where she led the Dukes to five consecutive 20-win campaigns for the first time in the program's history.
In her final season, Duquesne went 24-8 overall and 11-3 in the Atlantic 10. The 24 wins tied a school record set by McConnell-Serio's 2010-11 team, while the 11 conference victories were the most ever by the Dukes. Boasting an RPI of 36, Duquesne advanced to the 2013 Women's National Invitation Tournament, an unprecedented fifth consecutive postseason berth for the program.
McConnell-Serio's tenure at Duquesne was a continuation of the success she enjoyed during her other head coaching appointments on the professional and high school levels.
From 2003-06, she was the head coach of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. Inheriting a team that finished 10-22 the previous year, she immediately turned the franchise around by leading the Lynx to a single-season record 18 victories and their first-ever playoff berth. The following year, McConnell-Serio guided Minnesota back to the playoffs, earning a franchise-best No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, and was named the 2004 WNBA Coach of the Year.
Prior to her WNBA coaching tenure, McConnell-Serio coached at nearby Oakland Catholic High School (1990-2003) and firmly established its girls' basketball program as a perennial Pennsylvania power. She led the Eagles to three PIAA Class AAAA championships and finished as the state runner-up twice. McConnell-Serio averaged 24 wins per year at Oakland Catholic, while producing nearly a dozen NCAA Division I scholarship players.
Before going on to coaching, McConnell-Serio enjoyed one of the finest playing careers in the history of women's basketball. That career began in Western Pennsylvania, where she was a Parade All-American and four-year starter at Seton-LaSalle High School. As a senior she led the Lady Rebels to a 35-1 record and the PIAA championship. She also led the softball team to the WPIAL championship as a .500 hitter and was selected the Female Athlete of the Year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
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).
McConnell-Serio was the point guard for two Olympic teams, winning a Gold Medal at the 1988 Games in Seoul and a Bronze in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. 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).
McConnell-Serio was drafted in the second round (16th overall pick) by the Cleveland Rockers in the 1998 WNBA Draft and played three decorated seasons. In her initial campaign she was honored as the WNBA Newcomer of the Year and selected first team All-WNBA. She also went on to be a two-time recipient of the league's Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (1998 and 2000).
HALL OF FAME:
In 2008, McConnell-Serio received induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She was a member of the WPIAL Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 2007 and was elected to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. She was selected the first Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year in 1999 and repeated the honor in 2010.
Sports Illustrated named McConnell-Serio the best 5-foot-4 basketball player - male or female - of all-time. That magazine also named her one of the Top 50 Pennsylvania Athletes of the 20thCentury. She additionally was named to the USA Today All-Time Women's Basketball Team.
THE McCONNELL BASKETBALL TREE:
McConnell-Serio and her husband Pete were both born and raised in the Brookline area of Pittsburgh. They are the parents of four children: Peter, Jordan, Mandi and Madison.
McConnell-Serio comes from a famed Pittsburgh 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 a position as the assistant coach with the WNBA's Tulsa Shock. Kathy joined the Pitt staff as the Associate Head Coach in May of 2013.
Kathy was also an assistant coach at the University of Illinois and Rutgers. She 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.
Suzie's 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 his 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) just graduated from the University of Arizona and starred for former Pitt player Sean Miller.
Penn State, 1988
McConnell-Serio and her husband Pete have four children, son Peter and daughters Jordan, Mandi and Madison.