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February 3, 2007

The problem with being a long-term cynic of sports in general, it’s that you never know when a story is true or just revisionism. Now let’s talk strength and conditioning. When Coach Wannstedt took over, the stories we heard was about how the team would get faster. Not just from recruits, but strength and conditioning would emphasize speed and slimming down. Stories were written about slimming down. How conditioning had picked up. Remember the bonding over the winter workouts?

Now, I like Buddy Morris. He’s colorful, but more importantly he gets results and has strong loyalty to the school and players love him. Having said all of that, my cynical side reared it’s ugly head at this story.

The former Pitt sprinter is a self-described “fanatic on the technical application of movement.” He speaks as passionately about the metaphysics of strength and speed training. Video coordinator Chad Bogard taped early sprint and weight-lifting workouts so Morris could correct players’ flaws.

Morris also is enlisting the help of Pitt’s resources within the UPMC Sports Medicine Center, from director of human performance Bob Robertson to sports nutritionist Leslie Bonci, to teach the Panthers about lifestyle habits.

“This is the single-most important thing they do, train their bodies,” Morris said. “They play with their body. They need to take care of them.”

Morris seeks perfection, which starts with uniformity. The players must wear matching gold tops, blue shorts and black shoes to workouts. The exceptions are those who don’t meet Morris’ standards and are subjected to wearing pink shirts that read, “I work out at Curves,” a women’s fitness center.

The Panthers were given freedom under Kent, but they now adhere to Morris’ strict regimen. Morris has separated the players in groups of two dozen or less, with workouts scheduled according to their classes, so he can give them personal attention and prevent malingering.

“It’s definitely a shock to me,” redshirt junior linebacker Scott McKillop said. “You have two different personalities. Coach Kent was more of a laid-back person; Buddy is more in your face. He’s basically breaking us down and starting us from scratch.”

I guess, we’ll have to wait and see the results on the field.

UPDATE: The article is wonderfully optimistic, and says all the right things, I know. I’m just feeling cynical about that sort of puffery. Coming into this past season there was all talk about how players were in better condition — LaRod Stephens-Howling or slimmed down (Shane Brooks).

When Kent was hired, it was with much acclaim that Pitt got the guy who helped build and condition L-Ville — and in fact he was a S&C coach who emphasized low body fat.

This might be amusing, following the beginning of the Wannstedt era, this from a Zeise Q&A.

Yes, Mike Kent and his assistant Darren Honeycutt were retained, which may have been the best news of all to come out of the coaching change. I thought these two did a tremendous job last year with the team and now that they’ve had a year to put their offseason workout and their weight training and conditioning program in place, the team’s level of strength and overall fitness should take off. There is no doubt that Kent is one of the best in the business at what he does and Honeycutt should be ready to take over his own program some day.

Things change. I think this change of S&C coach is more important for being a guy Wannstedt wanted more and may be more supportive of and get behind. I don’t think Mike Kent and his regimen was the reason for Pitt’s performance the past couple years.

Player Notes from Various.

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Uncategorized — Chas @ 12:57 pm

A few weeks ago I noted what seemed to be just instinctive dislike of Gray at Slam magazine. Probably because Slam is a lot more concerned with the flash and style for an NBA thing. At least someone there may be dimly aware of the situation.

I’m sorry Aaron Gray. You’re not pedestrian, as we’ve previously stated. You’re slightly better than pedestrian. Extra-pedestrian, if you will. You’re rebounding at an unhealthy clip (10.2 rpg) and Pitt enjoys all the space you take up. And six-for-seven from the field the other night to seal off Villanova? Impressive.

So I don’t know why I (we) bash you so. We actually kind of like what you do. So here’s a nice stamped grievance for you.

Plus, isn’t this the mark of a good tourney team? A couple of good scorers, Graves and Cook, a scoring point guard, Levance Fields (and Undeclared’s unofficial mancrush on his crossover) and a low-post guy who can hold fort. Hell, Kaman at Western Michigan and Olowokandi at Pacific did it by themselves.

History shows this whole concept will work, so we’ll stop bashing you. At least momentarily.

Gee, thanks. Something worth noting — and actually reflecting the lack of big men for several years in the college game — both Olowkandi and Kaman were top-5 picks. Gray will likely be somewhere in the teens to the mid-20s.

Here’s something to consider. Half way through the Big East schedule, who is the best Center — in conference only. It’s a pretty good argument that Aaron Gray is second to Herbert Hill of Providence. This may strike some as heresay, but I’m essentially in agreement — insofar as Hill is more of the Foward/Center player. Hill was actually my pick as mid-season Big East player of the year.
Seth Davis had this observation this week.

Pitt’s Ronald Ramon still has too many quiet games for my taste, but the Panthers are so good in so many other areas that when Ramon is aggressive and making shots, they’re nearly impossible to beat.

Davis just wants the guards from Pitt to be more aggressive, it would seem. A couple weeks ago he was pumping for Levance Fields to be more aggressive (Krauser-like) to help Pitt’s chances.

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