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February 18, 2013

To The House

Filed under: Assistants,Chryst,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 2:55 pm

You’re doing it wrong, Pitt. You release bad news — or at least controversial news — on a Friday sometime around 5pm Eastern. Especially on a holiday weekend. You don’t do it on that Monday. And certainly not when there is a big basketball game slated for national TV and rather than have the Pitt fans fired up for the game, they are debating the long-awaited hire of a new defensive coordinator.

By now, almost everyone is aware, Pitt has promoted Matt House from secondary coach to the defensive coordinator position.

House, who will narrow his positional focus to the safeties this season, joined Chryst’s staff last year after working with the NFL’s St. Louis Rams (2009-11) and Carolina Panthers (2008). He previously held collegiate coaching posts at Michigan State, North Carolina, Gardner-Webb and Buffalo.

“I was very impressed by Matt’s work last year in the secondary,” Chryst said. “He has been a great fit for our program as a coach, recruiter and teacher of the game. His experiences and work ethic have more than prepared him for this opportunity to be a coordinator.”

It was a move that had been rumored for the past month in some form or another. House is not yet 35 and what makes this move subject to many questions is his paucity of experience. He started out at his alma mater, Michigan St., as a grad assistant for two years. Then it was two years as a “defensive assistant” at UNC. A year at Gardner-Webb. Then two years at Buffalo. Never beyond a position coach.

Before Coach Chryst hired him as the secondary coach he was working in the fringes of NFL coaching for four years. Heck, last year getting the job at Pitt to coach the secondary was reasonably considered to be his biggest break to date.

This makes the promotion to be the DC something of a shock. And definitely a bit unnerving. Coach Chryst said he interviewed at least 3 other people for the job as well as House. Naturally the names were not identified. Chryst also downplayed the length in naming a DC — especially when merely promoting from within — by saying that they really didn’t start looking at possible hires until after the BBVA Bowl.

The promotion of House ends a 64-day search for Huxtable’s successor, but Chryst said the last two months weren’t spent exclusively on finding a new defensive coordinator.

“We were going to get through the bowl game, and while we were doing that, I was going to start talking to people, but nothing really more than that. Just kind of gathering information and finding out if certain guys had interest, on the phone more than anything. There was a window after the bowl where we interviewed guys for the coordinator job, and once we did that, we finished out recruiting and while that was finishing up we started compiling a list of guys that would be good fits in the assistant role.

“I made some inquiries and talked to people, but we really wanted to give as much as we could to the bowl. I knew [Matt] was going to interview, but I didn’t want him to have to get ready to interview for a job and do the necessary work for bowl prep.

“We wanted to finish out the season the best we could. We didn’t feel like we were going to get anybody in that was going to impact recruiting anyways, so that’s why there wasn’t a strong push to try to get someone in at that time.”

Apparently Chryst isn’t real big on multi-tasking. Need to finish the bowl prep first. Then the end of recruiting. That DC thing will keep.

Honestly, the whole recruiting stuff for the class of 2013 is such a load of crap. No one was really worried about the loss of Huxtable as DC costing Pitt anyone from the class. Huxtable’s presence was neutral for recruiting. I wasn’t even concerned with its impact on the 2014 recruiting.

The issue was simply that it was taking 2 months to make a call on the hire. That the hire finally came with a little more than 2 weeks before spring practices begin. And now, that it took 2 months just to promote a guy with very limited experience to the job. And why? Because Coach Chryst was familiar and comfortable with him.

Citing familiarity, Matt House gets promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. Veteran coach John Palermo joins staff as linebackers and defensive ends coach. Former Pitt standout Hank Poteat (1996-99) on board as graduate assistant.

Just two weeks prior to the start of spring practices, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst promoted defensive backs coach Matt House to defensive coordinator. House fills the vacancy after Dave Huxtable was tabbed as N.C. State’s defensive coordinator on December 14.

Chryst said he interviewed four candidates for the job, but felt most comfortable promoting from within, despite House not having experience in a coordinator role. Chryst declined to announce who the four interviewees were, or if House was among those four or in addition to those four.

“Matt was a guy I interviewed, and he set the bar pretty high,” Chryst said. “He earned it. Matt is certainly ready for it.”

Look, every coordinator is an eventual leap of faith from a position coach. It is that House has all of four years position coach experience — and only one year at the 1-A level that makes this such a questionable thing. It isn’t like House was being widely regarded as a rising star.

The bullseye will be on House. If the defense struggles this coming year, there won’t be much slack cut the new DC. By extension, there won’t be much slack given to Chryst if the defense struggles.

Now the debate will rage. Was Pitt too cheap in what they offered for a coach? Is Chryst’s preference for guys he knows/trusts/has familiarity or some direct trust limiting his choices (or simply leading to those choices)?

I tend to think this is more about comfort than money. Especially when you see a good, experinced DC like Todd Orlando taking the Utah St. DC position. The hiring of John Palermo to coach the defensive backs and linebackers reinforces my sense that promoting House was more about Chryst hiring people he is more familiar/comfortable with than the money. It is more a matter of what Chryst likes.

Palermo is widely regarded as one of the finest defensive assistants in college football. He is a 38-year coaching veteran whose stops include 15 years at the University of Wisconsin, two seasons with the Washington Redskins and this past season with the University of Tennessee.

Palermo (pronounced pa-lair-mo) was an integral figure in helping Barry Alvarez build Wisconsin into a national power. He was the Badgers’ assistant head coach from 1991-2005 and also oversaw the defensive line (1996-2005) and outside linebackers (1991-95). Palermo coached four first-team All-Americans, four Big Ten Defensive Linemen of the Year, two Big Ten Defensive Players of the Year, and a pair of first-round draft selections in Wendell Bryant (2002) and Erasmus James (2005). In 2004 the entire starting defensive line at Wisconsin was selected in the NFL Draft.

Yes, Chryst hired another guy he knew from Wisconsin. It’s also worth noting that Palermo made his rep coaching the D-line. That is what he has been coaching since 1996. That is the position he has always coached aside from the first four years he spent at Wisconsin (1991-1995). At Pitt he is coaching outside linebackers and defensive ends. Chris Haering will focus on coaching the inside linebackers and Inoke Breckterfield will take the defensive tackles.

If I’m Inoke Breckterfield, I work really hard at pulling in some talent this year. That or I make sure Aaron Donald, K.K. Smith have monster years to show some other value. Chris Haering is likely safe with his local ties as a former coach at Mt. Lebanon.

The other hire was Hank Poteat, the former Pitt star, as a grad assistant focusing on the cornerbacks. Frankly, this one is nearly as confusing as promoting House.

While his title is “defensive graduate assistant & cornerbacks”, it seems he’s more the cornerback coach. With House the DC and safeties coach. There isn’t another defensive back coach on the staff.

Poteat would play for five NFL teams over 10 seasons and earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of the 2004 New England Patriots. He retired from the NFL following the 2009 season and spent the past two years as defensive backs coach at Kentucky Christian University.

A native of Harrisburg, Pa., and graduate of Harrisburg High, Poteat earned his bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Pitt.

“We’re really excited to bring Hank back home to Pitt,” Chryst said. “In addition to his experience as an NFL player, Hank has coached on the college level the past two years. His knowledge of the game and of Pitt is going to be a big asset for us.”

I’m assuming “grad assistant” is more descriptive of his pay scale.

On the surface it’s an absolute head scratcher and great blog fodder but I have to give HCPC the benefit of the doubt. He has been given the latitude to do what he wants to turn this program around in a big way. I’d prefer to go high risk…high reward vs. being a middling program that never does anything special for the rest of my life. HCPC gives me hope. As a fan, that’s all I can ask. I’d suggest we all nut up and go all-in with this guy because it’s a lot more fun than being miserable in my book. The ACC is ours and I’m looking forward to the future. HTP!

Comment by FG 02.19.13 @ 10:18 am

Oh…one more thing. As to Dokish telling me that the reason we are middling is because we blindly accept it is BS. The guy has a blog…it doesn’t give him a right to label me or any other Pitt fan. I couldn’t give too ships what he thinks about me and my acceptance of this hire. He has very little inside knowledge of our University and Athletic Dept. The University gives plenty of support within the rules and in a prudent fashion….the chips have just not fallen our way. It happens that way for the vast majority of quality institutions of higher learning. He has opinion just like everyone else….just because he has a blog does not make him an expert and he’s far from it.

Comment by FG 02.19.13 @ 10:30 am

but his back ground says he is more of a expert
then you and i.
and the part that rings true is the university
does not seam to desire to be big time in

Comment by FRANKCAN 02.19.13 @ 10:39 am

How many coaches in our recent history have made Pitt look like fools? How many coaches has Pitt made to look like fools? We are far from a great place to “cut your coaching” teeth. Hopefully PC can change that. Outside of our “Pitt Is It!” world, what is really the view of Pitt’s AD in the real world? Most of these coaches don’t remember the 70’s and ’80s. We Reap What We Sow – (to SP). House is now our new DC. It’s time to stop eating our young, because until Pitt has some success, we’re not going to be “reproducing”.

Football needs to become a bigger deal with bigger focus. We need to generate some “postives” for the program. We have to play the cards we’re dealt, today, but, that doesn’t mean we (Pitt) can’t become the dealers.

Comment by CompLit 02.19.13 @ 10:57 am

FRANKCAN: No insult intended,BUt are you this negative about EVERYTHING IN LIFE or just about the UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH. If you are, I;m sorry and would respectfully suggest you seek another venue for your lisure time activities. What you write often has much sense, but it seems to brand you as a MALCONTENT!! You should move o Columbus where the gridiron euphoria is always at fever pitch, even in the midst of a tatoo scandal and the threat of even more probationary action. Relax, Mr. FRANKCAN and let the Pitt football fortunes play out. I would advize you not to purchase Panther season tickets in the forseeable future. Best to you! Rev. George from central Ohio.

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 02.19.13 @ 11:59 am

FRANKCAN, with all due respect, maybe you feel that his background makes him more of an expert than you but do not speak for me. He’s a regular fan from Robinson Township that blogs about Pitt and does some research accordingly. That’s about it unless I missed his Wiki somehow. I and many others on here have been following Pitt from far closer for many more years than that cat but if you want to put him on a pedestal to support your opinions that’s cool.

As for the University desiring not to be in big time college football….again, this is a highly subjective comment. Last I looked Pitt has been in big time college football for a long long time and isn’t showing signs of backing away. If you feel the hiring of a DC coordinator without your preferred pedigree is evidence of a lack of commitment to big time college football you’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

Comment by FG 02.19.13 @ 12:22 pm

Guys, Please, the sky is not falling. We will have a good idea in a couple of years if the Chryst system is working–coach hiring, recruiting, offensive and defensive systems, teaching, coaching (all of it including game day), player off the field behavior, academic performance and most of all progress in the W-L statistics. A minority of us are optimistic, not due to drinking kool aide (we did that with FG, remember, PC isn’t even selling any) but because it is apparent that Coach Chryst has an approach and a plan and is following through. We simply do not have even close to enough experience with his results to be able to effectively evaluate. Relax and enjoy the ride. That might even encourage a few potential recruits and a few more butts in the seats. Ya never know! H.T.P.!

Comment by OPFIM 02.19.13 @ 1:46 pm

House is a good young talent. Hell do fine. I like the willingness by Chryst to recognize an up and coming talent who players will respond to.

Comment by Orlando Truit 02.19.13 @ 2:02 pm

Seems like both Werner (no surprise) and DiPaola are drinking the kool-aid. I like House’s philosophies, our defense sucked a$$ against the spread last year. The only question is whether or not he can pull it off. I’ll bet that he can.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 02.19.13 @ 3:00 pm

A Second to Dr. Tom, OPFIM and others who are looking at this more optimistically.

Wow, you would think someone just blew up the Cathedral of Learning or something.

I waant Oooooorlaaandooooo!

cut me a F#$% break.

The dude Chryst is our head coach, entering his second year. It is his call and now we will see if he is a coach or schmuck…

Where is the reaction of, “hey the guy must know something we don’t”… let’s go kick some ass in Spring ball and see what this is all about?

Instead its…. Oh, I waant Oooooorlaandoooo…

I am glad he is making his decisions without any “cover my ass I want a paycheck” moves most HC make in college football.

Picking House shows this guy will make the tough decision… yes that’s right… the tough call.

He picked the man he thought will advance his program building the best.. knowing he would take heat for it… as this here exemplifies.

but no… oooohhhh, I waant Ooooorlaaandoooo…..

cut me a F$#% break. coaching retreads are just that… guys out of work looking for jobs with egos to be head coaches or at the ‘top’ programs… such people are not loyal and will not help build a NEW program back to dominance… it is all about them and their ego/pay check.

Chryst picked a guy he watched for a year and measured the man… Chryst is not an idiot and knows this hire is HIS.

If he was a greasy typical head coach he would have pick…

Oooooorlaaaandooo, and then said a bunch of bullshit about how great the guy was… then if the D. puked and things didn’t work out he could have pleaded ‘inexperience’ but hey who would have thought that such a

Pitt ties
all around perfect, manly, … big time… super duper DC could have failed.

As I said yesterday and no one has refuted it…

Steelers, Rooneys,…. Noll, Cowher and Tomlin… ALL fit the same scenario… Tomlin was a DC for one year and then HC to a ‘destination’ job with a great franchise…

oh,… but I waaant Ooooooorlaaandoooo.

F%$# Orlando and all of the other guys who were out of work.

House is the man
Pitt is my team
Chryst is my HC so screw people talking anti-Pitt bullshit.

and when the defense is kicking ass next year and putting a forearm in the mouth of ACC pussies with “speed”…. remember to step up and talk shit then.

Hail Pitt… for real.

Comment by Pittscript 02.19.13 @ 3:08 pm

Thanks Pittscript for having my back. I know that you don’t want to harm anyone’s feelings by presenting a contary point of view, however can you give me your straight, honest opinion on how you really feel about the DC hire without all the sugar coating??? LMFAO after reading your last post above, HILARIOUS!

Comment by Dr. Tom 02.19.13 @ 3:40 pm

Dr. Tom sorry to ‘go off’ and definitely was not directing that in any person’s particular direction… just the mentality.

You however are always the voice of reason sir!

Comment by Pittscript 02.19.13 @ 4:01 pm

Script, Dr.Tom – I’m with you, remember when HCPC was critized for the lack of recruiting offers – we couldn’t recruit…well he can – and he can coach and pick assistant coaches (Rudolph made the top 25 recruiters)- the man knows what he wants and he’ll get Pitt there!

Comment by markp 02.19.13 @ 4:15 pm

we will see next year as i said if we win 6 games i will come on here and say i was the jack ass and if we dont you will, i made this offer before.

but you all kill me chas said this was a bad hire dokish said it was a bad hire
wardapalooza said it was a joke
dan said it looks bad
even Wbb said it pissed him off
iron duke did not like it
EMel did not like it
cardic hill before it was made final did not want it
tex panther thought it was a bad move
but becuse i think dokish makes a lot of sence
i am the bad man
i can take fire all your guns at me
but can you really say this is who you would have hired if it was up to you if you do you lie

Comment by FRANKCAN 02.19.13 @ 6:38 pm


Comment by Pittscript 02.19.13 @ 7:06 pm

FRANKCAN you are not a jackass. I definitely respect your passion and love reading your stuff.

The point is Chryst is the HC of my team and he made the call so I back him… and one big reason is it is only his second season.

Comment by Pittscript 02.19.13 @ 7:09 pm

I’m with FRANKCAN. I’m not generally a negative person but this hiring looks like the best coach that very little money could buy.

Comment by apostles03 02.19.13 @ 8:04 pm

Just read money was not an issue. Chryst did contact Austin and Tomsula. Neither were interested in job. Sounds like House is a workaholic like Chryst. House will also run 4-3 and 3-4. Just like Chryst, he wants to put his best defensive players in position to make plays. That’s at least see what the guy does in spring ball before we hang ourselves.

Comment by Why me 02.19.13 @ 8:42 pm

They fact that he contacted Austin, Tomsula, the previous NC State coach shows he tried to put a seasoned person in place…rather than upset the chemistry of the staff and the team – he decided to use the best person on his staff…makes sense if you’ve even built an organization or built a team (I’ve done both many times). HTP and H to HCPC.

Comment by markp 02.19.13 @ 9:16 pm

Pittscript, Thanks for the affirmation. Your post is an absolute hoot. Sometimes the smart humor on this blog is just wonderful. You, Dr. Tom, markp, myself and a few others are either flinty eyed realistic optimists or simply wacko. What the hell, it’s a great ride. FRANCAN, I too love your passion for Pitt. You are on! Pitt will win 6 games or more this year. The year after will be even better. In fact Pitt will win at least 7 games in 2014! If they don’t I will post on here what an Idiot and a Jackass I am! Hold me to it in case my brain can’t outrun my age and I forget. H.T.P.!

Comment by OPFIM 02.19.13 @ 10:52 pm

I want Chryst to be the one. I love basketball and all, but you can’t beat football. Especially after that ND game, I need a break from heartache.

Comment by Benzene 02.19.13 @ 11:23 pm

FRANKCAN, please don’t set your jackass bar so low. If Pitt wins six games, can we agree that you’ll just be a nitwit instead? Seven wins, then you can earn your jackass award. Eight or more Pitt wins then you’ll acquire the title of Most High Pessimistic Pitt Prognosticator! OK?

Just pulling your chain my friend! Keep sharing your passion about all things Pitt athletics, its always interesting to hear other points of view. In the end we’re all saying the same thing, Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 02.20.13 @ 7:44 am

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