April 6, 2011

Letting Khem Birch Grieve

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 11:57 am

If you want a good reason why I don’t like following the Twitter accounts of teenage boys (I mean, aside from the clear discomfort and creepiness of doing so when phrased that way), it is that they are more prone to emotional reactions that then create ripples of overreactions.

Let me put it this way. We keep seeing repeated examples of grown-ups being unable to handle the pitfalls of modern media. So who should realistically expect 17-19 year-olds to  react to news with the cold logic of Spock and handle Twitter with the wisdom of Solomon?

With Pat Skerry leaving his post as assistant coach at Pitt for the head coaching job at Towson, Khem Birch was bothered. Birch is very close to Skerry. He was prepared to go to Providence because Skerry was there. He opted for Pitt when Skerry changed jobs. He changed classifications to the class of 2011 and signed his NLI to Pitt.

Tweeted his response to such news.

Yesterday afternoon, this message was posted on Birch’s Twitter account, MTLsGift: “A lot of thinking to do. Very upset. When the going gets tough the tough get going. Will see whats in store.”

That was followed up by a tweet about speaking on the phone with Assistant Coach Brandin Knight, and feeling a bit better. But still no statement of 100% committed still to Pitt. Knight is supposed to meet with the kid on Thursday.

That cued up the angst and worry over whether he was going to bail at the last minute. I really didn’t see it as anything big yet. He was having an emotional reaction to the situation. Nothing was going to happen immediately.

His choices aren’t that great. He has signed the NLI. The Big East has some of the toughest conference restrictions on recruits after they commit to a Big East program and sign the NLI. No Big East team can touch him. Period. Doesn’t matter if he never sets foot on campus. UConn, Louisville, West Virginia, etc. The other fifteen Big East programs can’t have him. Other top programs would have to struggle to make space for him at this point, and Pat Skerry still wouldn’t be there.

If Pitt refused to let him out of the NLI, he would have to sit a year before playing. Not really an option for a one-and-done player.

Then came the good news. His high school coach reaffirmed Birch’s commitment to Pitt.

“Khem is going to Pittsburgh,” Notre Dame Prep coach Ryan Hurd said Tuesday. “There is no need for alarm. Khem is an 18-year-old kid. And disappointment is what it is.

“He was close to coach Skerry. But the reality is he signed with Pitt because of coach [Jamie] Dixon, and coach Dixon is still there.”

“These kids have to realize that these coaches have aspirations just like they do,” Hurd said. “He should be happy that coach Skerry’s dreams are coming true. And he is. It’s just hard for an 18-year-old kid when he is emotionally tied to a coach.”

Spoken like a grown-up. Not to mention a coach with aspirations of his own that knows he may have to emotionally crush some of his own charges at some point.

Not to mention that Birch eventually Tweeted an indication that he isn’t going to try and decommit from Pitt. And another tweet with Durand Johnson (who shows the remarkable intelligence to lockdown his twitter account) on Tuesday.

Of course, Chris Peak of PantherLair — who actually talked to Birch on Monday night — and got a very non-committal response, notes that the situation isn’t actually resolved (Peak still thinks Birch will still end up at Pitt). And he’s right. Birch hasn’t made any actual statement yet. That’s his high school coach saying this, and Birch has not made his own definitive statement.

I haven’t worried much about it, though, and I still don’t. Birch has options, but his best one is still Pitt. The thing that works strongest for Pitt is that Birch has signed his NLI and sent his materials to the NCAA Clearinghouse to get him on campus for summer semester.

Amazing how it worked out that he reclassified to the 2011 class rather than 2012. Now if he was still in the 2012 class, then there would have been reason to worry.

Chas – do you think that might have been a reason that PITT pushed to have Birch a 2011 recruit?

Comment by Reed 04.06.11 @ 12:34 pm

No, I think that was just luck.

By all accounts, the decision to reclassify came from Birch and his family. It actually caught Pitt off-guard because of the scholarship numbers. But you never turn down talent.

Comment by Chas 04.06.11 @ 12:36 pm

If you check his twitter page there is also an exchange with IfTheShoeFITTs

IfTheshoeFITTS — @MTLsGift Thank you for not bailing. Big things next year. —

MTLsGift– @IfTheShoeFITTS coach Dixon is the best coach in America why would i —

Comment by BCPITT 04.06.11 @ 12:38 pm

Chas – what do you think the chances of him bolting would have been if he hadn’t already signed is LOI? His other tweets to durand johnson and about Dixon are nice, but if he wasn’t bound how much of a no brainer would it be that he would leave?

Comment by BCPITT 04.06.11 @ 12:51 pm

If Birch hadn’t reclassified, I think he almost certainly would have re-opened his commitment. Pitt would have been in the mix, and perhaps even an inside track with a relationship in place with Dixon and Knight, but there would have been a lot of teams and coaches coming hard for him. He would have looked and listened and there would have been nothing wrong with it. The recruiting time is really the last time these players have any power or control over where they go — until they can become NBA free agents.

The coaching and recruiting world is brutal. When Huggins was hired at K-State he snagged Frank Martin and also a top assistant from Charlotte (forget his name) to be his assistant coaches. The reason he hired the Charlotte assistant was his relationship with Mike Beasley. Beasley verbally committed to Charlotte because of the guy. He followed him to K-State. Lutz was the Charlotte HC and a close friend of Huggins. Didn’t matter.

Comment by Chas 04.06.11 @ 1:28 pm

Maybe he did make his definative statement right from the start.

I’m no mind reader especially of a teenager’s mind, but making the statement, “When the going gets tough the tough get going.” says to me that even though he’s upset, he realizes he needs to man-up and honor his committment. If that’s the case, then “We’ll see what’s in store.” means he’s waiting to hear what the remaining Pitt coaches have to say, and possibly who they bring in to replace Skerry.

Of course he’s “Very upset.” Like Chas said, he had stayed loyal to Skerry who found him when few big time programs were paying attention. But people might have read too much into those two words and payed too little attention to the rest.

Comment by TampaT 04.06.11 @ 1:42 pm

Which are the more emotional and reactionary social media users: 17-year-old high schoolers on twitter, or 40-somethings posting comments about them on blogs?

Comment by Jason 04.06.11 @ 2:14 pm

off topic.

wbb- what did you think of shelvin mack’s performance on monday? please remember that ashton gibbs scored 27 points on 10-13 shooting against the same Uconn team a few weeks ago.

Comment by Omar 04.06.11 @ 2:33 pm

were ranked 19 in espn polls next year. id say losing 3 seniors and staying in the top 20 is respect for a coach and a program.

Comment by Justin 04.06.11 @ 5:50 pm

Reed and Chas, can you give the elusive Skerry some metaphorical assistance?

“Skerry, who worked for two seasons at Providence before replacing Marshall-bound Tom Herrion at Pitt, said he will never forget the Panthers.

“Pitt is a mirage,” he said. “It is so terrific.”

Read more: Former Pitt assistant calms Birch fears – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review link to

Comment by steve 04.06.11 @ 7:13 pm

head-to head … Mack had 31, Gibbs had 13 and was nowhere to be seen in the 2nd half.

Mack had a bad game as just about eveyone but still led theteam in scoring. But,in the first half, I admt he looked like Wannamker looked the last 10 games of the year (except down the stretch vs Lousivlle)

Mack scored 31, 27, 24, 21 in the tourney …. when the hell did anyone from Pitt ever put anything together like that?

Comment by wbb 04.06.11 @ 7:26 pm

I forgot to mention how Mack carried Butler in the semis vs VCU … he went 8 from 11 from the field; the rest of the team shot 22%

Comment by wbb 04.06.11 @ 7:31 pm

Mack’s worst game on Monday would be a pretty solid game for Gil or Brad

Comment by Tony Cancilla 04.06.11 @ 7:34 pm

ESPN updated player rankings: Mack #50, Gibbs #138

Comment by Tony Cancilla 04.06.11 @ 7:44 pm

And that’s why Gibbs will be back. He does one thing very well and if he wants to earn a paycheck playing ball he should be working on developing his weaker skills. He learned how to improve his defense so he can improve. He’s not a great defender but he’s better than he was. We need his senior leadership next year, also need him to serve as a model for Moore, who needs to learn to play defense and Epps, who needs to grow up.

Comment by Old School Panther 04.07.11 @ 7:00 am

Skerry quoted in today’s Tribune-Review saying that Birch is still coming to Pitt.

“(Birch) is good,” Skerry said. “He’s excited, and he will be a good addition. He didn’t sign with Pat Skerry. He signed with Pitt. He will be fine. That stuff goes on all the time.”

link to

The article says he also contacted all the other Pitt recruits after he got the Towson St. job, which is the appropriate way to do it since he was the one leaving Pitt. So, for those panicking and thinking Jamie was asleep at the wheel, it looks like everything was under control and done the right way, as usual.

Comment by TampaT 04.07.11 @ 8:28 am

Does anyone else find it weird how close these recruits are with assistant coaches? Makes me scratch my head…its like some weird cult leader and cult member relationship or something. The coach left o well. move on khem.

Comment by Dobber 04.07.11 @ 8:38 am

LMAO sounds to me he was more interested in playing 4 Skurry than Jamie Dixon!!! WTF???? This kid sounds like trouble and is a one and done guy anyway.
Its begenning to Look like Tinko Sunseri will be the Pitt QB He is the only one that can run a little! DAMN!!!

Comment by RandyRandyTime 04.07.11 @ 9:13 am

Email me at: if u wanna discuss this further!

Comment by RandyRandyTime 04.07.11 @ 9:15 am

Question? Is Birch one of those simple moron Birthers?? Just askin’ !

Comment by RandyRandyTime 04.07.11 @ 9:17 am


check out sam young’s stats from the 2009 tourney.

also, the season is 35 games, a 4 game stretch is pretty meaningless. gibbs was the better player in a better conference during the balance of the year.

uconn had no answer for ashton gibbs, none. mack was easy to take away on monday. food for thought.

tony- i think you have lost it a bit. wannamaker was a stud this year. look at the numbers. gilbert brown was better than mack head-to-head.

Comment by Omar 04.07.11 @ 9:31 am

Mack will get drafted. No Pitt player will.

Comment by TX Panther 04.07.11 @ 9:46 am

I bet Birch could show us his birth certificate in about 20 minutes, I know I could!!! LMAO!!!

Comment by Dan 04.07.11 @ 9:53 am

Randy, you a Nittany Lion or a Mountaineer????

Comment by Dan 04.07.11 @ 9:54 am

60 players will get drafted. all 60 aren’t better than ashton gibbs. the numbers don’t lie.

Comment by Omar 04.07.11 @ 9:59 am

Based on the spelling, grammar, illogical statements, self-aggrandizing posting name and foolishness of thinking anyone will pay attention to his comments let alone email him directly to discuss them, I’m guessing Hoopie.

Comment by TampaT 04.07.11 @ 10:01 am

I’m not going to jump into the Mack/Gibbs comparisions, but it seems to me that Mack is a borderline NBA player at best. He doesn’t really have the size to be a shooting guard, and doesn’t really have the skills to be a point guard. He’s a very good college player (who happened to have a great game against Pitt), and he’ll probably make a good living playing ball if that is what he wants, but I don’t know if it will be in the NBA.

Comment by Pantherman13 04.07.11 @ 10:10 am

Omar I agree with alot of what you say but I think at times you get too caught up in the “numbers” as the be all, end all for debates. True, they are the one empirical piece of the argument, but they are still only a piece.

Is the best scorer always the better player than the guy after him? The one with the highest assist/TO ratio definitively better than the next? What if one player is asked to run the offense twice as often as the next guy?

For example, would Trey Woodall still be in the same statistical proximity as someone like Kendall Marshall if he were asked to run the offense full-time? (Not that people are making the comparison now.)

Long-winded point is that I think you have to take the entire context into consideration. Would a team want a guy like Mack (not as accurate shot but more likely to get own shot) or Gibbs (more accurate statistically but more effective with someone else generating his shot).

Comment by Jason 04.07.11 @ 10:20 am

I frankly doubt either will stick, by the way…

Comment by Jason 04.07.11 @ 10:20 am


I agree. However, when two players are as close as Gibbs and Mack, then the only place to look is the numbers. By the numbers, Gibbs is a better player. Personally, I would rather have Gibbs than Mack. Neither is a superstar, but I would rather have the more accurate shooter. Nobody is going to argue that Mack is as good as Chris Paul, therefore I would rather have the player that knocks down 50% of his threes and is decent at everything else.

Comment by Omar 04.07.11 @ 10:33 am

LOL Tampa, you always see things clearly. As much as my hate for PSU is greater than WVU (45 yrs old, so, I still put them ahead of WVU, and long for the end of the year game against PSU), yes, the grammar smells of Morgantown!!! LMAO. Well, Randy, you got what you wanted, someone(me) posted about you on the Pitt Blather!!! Enjoy your 15 minutes!!!

Tampa, I have about 4 or 5 guys on here, you being one of them, that I talk to back and forth a bit when subjects come up, I wanted to give you one of the best college football sites I’ve ever come across.

Anyone else out there, that is a college football junkie, please check this out. Schedules and info, future schedules, a really cool section, called, the Helmet Project, shows, all the pro and college helmet threw the years. Very cool!

link to I think you’ll enjoy it. Just for some fun. Most of the stuff is free. Like I said, I enjoy checking the future schedules and helmet project out, it’s on the left!

Comment by Dan 04.07.11 @ 10:59 am

Chas, I hope I have your blessing, I just pasted a fantastic college football site to Tampa, and I wanted to post it here for all on here.

If your a college football junkie, check this site out. I’m a regular on here, I have no ties to the site, this is not a commercial.

link to

I don’t know what took me so long to let others see this, never thought about it. It has info, college football future schedules, and a really cool thing, called “The Helmet Project”. The guy has listed, and shows, all the pro, and college helmets, and the changes they’ve made to them over the years.

Most of it is free, I think you can pay for “detailed” info like most sites, but, for the most part, free and cool. He even has all the division II and III helmets. Great graphics!!

Chas, you probably know about it, if not, check it out. The future schedules and helmet projec are on the left side margain.

Chas, I hope you are ok with me pasting this??

Comment by Dan 04.07.11 @ 11:05 am

One more thing. I will state this up front, pre season rankings, and sometimes even regular season ranking mean nothing!! I know this!!!

But, just for fun, the above site even has an early bird rankings!!!

Again, means nothing, just for fun, but, most on here will be happy to know, he has Pitt ranked 35th!!!! Hey, for where we’ve come from with the coaching fiasco, to now, not to bad, especially when the coaching fiasco looked like Pitt might fall off of the map, like we’d be ranked 119th out of 119 for a couple years….we’re still in the game.

Again, just for fun, I know we could go 2-10, just something fun to check out, and pleasantly suprised to see us in the top tier, even with all that has happened to us. Just click on the preview section of above posted site.

Again, most of you know I’m a regular, wondering why I’ve posted about this site three times in a row, no, no ties whatsoever, no commercial, I just know most of you are college football junkies like myself, and I think you’d really like this site, and its free. Hope some of you click on it, think you’ll enjoy!!

With the weather breaking, gotta say, gettin’ pumped up for the spring game. I’m drinkin’ the cool aid!!!

Comment by Dan 04.07.11 @ 11:13 am

I’m with you on Gibbs too, Omar. I actually think out of the two of them he’s got the better (though very slim) chance of making an NBA roster at some point. You can’t ignore when a player does even only one thing exceptionally well (shoot 3s).

Comment by Jason 04.07.11 @ 11:18 am

By the way, I know this is a basketball thread, but, when Tampa and I spoke of PSU and WVU, I automatically thought football, so, please excuse me!!

Comment by Dan 04.07.11 @ 12:04 pm

Thanks for the info on the site, Dan. I’ve added it to my sports reference favorites list. I like the all-time stats section and you’re right, the Helmet Project is pretty cool.

Reed’s coverage of the Spring sure has me anticipating the Fall. Let’s hope we all stay fired up about High Octane and Nitro as the season progresses. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, but hopefully not as painful as last year’s.

Comment by TampaT 04.07.11 @ 1:05 pm

If Wanamaker and Brown are such studs then why won’t anyone in the NBA even give them a look? If you throw out the numbers and just watch them play it is obvious they dont belong in the NBA. I never understood the Wanamaker love. Yeah, he’s a stat stuffer but I would always hold my breath every time he had the ball or had to guard someone with any quickness. Out of control charges and timid defense is what I will remember. Very good player but way overhyped because the media loves the box score. They need something to talk about every time Pitt plays. 30 NBA GM’s would agree so I don’t think I’ve lost it

Comment by Tony Cancilla 04.07.11 @ 2:21 pm

FWIW, I believe Brown would currently be a better project than Gibbs.

But the argument I had with Omar is not necessarily about numbers or NBA darftability … it was with Omar’s statement that Pitt had the 3 most talented players on the court the night they played Butler. With Mack and Howard on the floor, I cannot for Butler, I took issue with that statement, expecially with the numbers both of them put up throughout the tourney. WE also seem to put our team and players on a higher level than most others (like any other fans) .. it’s just the nature of the beast.

Comment by wbb 04.07.11 @ 2:39 pm

Completely off topic, but I’ve been meaning to ask this all year. Who are the two guys that are ALWAYS sitting together behind the Pitt bench at road games and courtside at the home ones. One guy is short and has white hair/mustache. The other has a bit of a belly….

Comment by Bobby 04.07.11 @ 3:13 pm

Ive wondered that too Bobby

Comment by Tony C 04.07.11 @ 7:00 pm

From KBirch’s Twitter today: “National champs 2012 what y’all thinking? No cats. No lions. Certainly no Orangemen. Straight panthers!!!!” Sounds like a good sign to me.

Comment by merlin 04.07.11 @ 7:01 pm

“Ive wondered that too Bobby”

Someone correct me if I’m wrong – but the one gentleman I believe is Dr. James Barber.

link to

Comment by virgil 04.08.11 @ 1:18 pm

It looks like Khem Birch will be playing at the “Jordan Brand Classic” in Charlotte, NC this weekend. Here is some info : link to … is anyone attending that can report back to us on how he handles himself and how he plays?

Comment by kpcski 04.14.11 @ 4:21 am

FYI :: The Jordan Brand Classic will be live on ESPN2 it seems at 8pm on Saturday April 16th.

Comment by kpcski 04.14.11 @ 5:31 am

[…] went from being a dead lock Providence commit to a Pitt commit. When Skerry took that Towson job, Birch did waiver but ultimately stuck with Pitt. If for no other reason than the fact that he had already signed an NLI. Birch did not have that […]

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