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March 21, 2017

New(est) AD Introduced

Filed under: Athletic Department,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 12:41 pm

Yesterday was Athletic Director Heather Lyke’s introductory press conference (What? No pep band?). It was organized, direct and lacked a contentiousness that marked a press conference introducing another new athletic department employee a little less then a year ago.

People see what they want to see. I thought Lyke was fine in her unveiling. Not a revelation or makes me ready to endow a weight room or anything. Solid performance (PDF).

As everyone noted, football was at the forefront of topics at the press conference. Spring practices help, sure. But having Coach Pat Narduzzi on-hand and his involvement on the hiring committee didn’t hurt. It’s also the cash cow of any Power 5 program, and as Ron Cook notes it remains an ongoing priority to get people in the seats.

Lyke has plenty of work to do.

“It’s a vital issue,” Gallagher said. “All of our coaches will tell you, ‘When those stands are full, our teams play better.’ We’re going to try things. [Lyke] is a real innovator. We’ll keep working on it until we get it right.”

Lyke “revitalized” — Gallagher’s word — the Eastern Michigan football program as the athletic director there. But the Pitt job is a big step up. The ACC is one of the country’s strongest football leagues. Pitt also faces the challenges of being in a pro town and not having an on-campus stadium.

Aside from “keep winning,” there is no obvious answer. Lyke studiously avoided trying to give one, as well. Mainly because there is no other answer. The gameday experience as far as what Pitt tries to do is much better then it used to be. At the same time, the experience of going to any game (pro or college) has become more miserable. From the bag restrictions, to choked off tailgating space. To the rising costs for everything around the game. It’s an increasing concern at almost all college programs and NFL teams.

Kevin Gorman liked her energy and relatability.

“When we wear the blue and gold, we’ll wear it with pride,” Lyke said. “We’ll expect to win, and we’ll prepare for success.”

Lyke was smart not to get sidetracked about questions about building an off-campus football stadium, instead talking about improving Pitt’s partnership with the Steelers, with whom it shares UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side and Heinz Field. The football program appears headed in the right direction. It needs someone to steer it toward success, not interfere.

“A lot of things have been addressed already in the last couple years. There are things we’d like to continue, but you really didn’t need to bring in a new AD to continue to do that,” Narduzzi said. “Hopefully, she has some ideas. That’s what you want, somebody who also comes in with that vision to say, ‘Hey, Pat, here’s a different way to do it. Let’s try this.’ I want someone who is going to add to the program, not someone who’s going to keep it status quo.”

Lyke doesn’t seem like the status-quo type, not after working for Bob Goin at Cincinnati and Andy Geiger and Gene Smith at Ohio State. She talked about coming from the world of compliance, where “the great skill set you learn is to get along with people and problem solve.” That’s a great trait.

That should be refreshing at Pitt, where athletic directors have been either aloof or authoritarian.

I can’t really speak to the manner of the past two ADs. Honestly, I’ve never really cared about meeting the AD. The assistants and associates — sure. But not the AD. Never been a big deal. The closest I came was during a one-day junket in NYC for Nike during that Pro Combat uniform thing.  But I was so hungover from a night with Pitt alum in NYC that when Pederson asked me if I wanted to talk/interview him, I essentially blew him off because I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Charlie Batch likes her.

A good piece where Pitt football beat writer, Brian Batko talked to a Detroit Free Press writer that has covered Eastern Michigan about Lyke.

Q: In your view then, what’s her legacy at Eastern, is it the coaching hire and helping to maybe get the football program back on track?

A: “I think that’s it. She made a really smart hire in a football coach, she got it turned around. The big question mark, and I think this is part of the legacy, too, was that just a one-year blip type of thing or is there actually a program here? Most schools can point to one or two seasons here and there that were good. Eastern hasn’t been able to do that, so when they have won, it’s celebrated. But to make a program, you’ve got to have multiple years of success. The other thing going on is she’s in the middle of this big $35 million upgrade to facilities. That might not sound like a lot to other schools, but here at Eastern, that’s a big deal, a lot of money. So the big question around here is what happens to that plan?”

Q: Lastly, was interacting with fans and trying to improve that a major emphasis for her at Eastern?

A: “Yeah, very concerned about the fan experience. They tried some stuff — bringing in local breweries, beer tents at the football games inside the stadium, and over here that was seen as a pretty big deal. She’s changed around some of the ways they do ticketing and worked on some of that stuff to really try to make it more fan-friendly. So she’s definitely very aware of the experience of going to a game — basketball, football, whatever.”

Honestly, we aren’t going to see too much of the stuff Lyke does for the first couple of years. Most of what she will be doing will be behind the scenes. Fundraising to some degree, but to be fair, there is already a strategic plan in place. Lyke, will be responsible for executing.

Final aside: If you are fantasizing over a change in basketball coaches, forget it. Basketball coach Kevin Stallings is safe for a couple years absent a scandal. It wouldn’t matter who the AD is.

You cannot point to a Power conference basketball program that has fired a coach after one year without some sort of scandal. It’s not the NBA or a professional sports league. Really, you will be hard pressed to find more than a couple college basketball coaches fired after just two years.

Please get that delusion out of your mind.


Thank you for those last 3 paragraphs. That’s all I have to say.

Comment by The Pitt Dilemma 03.21.17 @ 1:00 pm

I’ve been saying that all along. It would reflect more on Pitt than KS to dump him, and it isn’t about the money to buy out the contract. As for the new AD, good luck with putting fannies in the seats. What more can be done that hasn’t been tried. Perhaps they should speak with the Penguins front office. They turned a bad situation into complete sellouts with a winning team and some stars. In the college game there is a constant turnover of players and more emphasis should be placed on the bells and whistles of the college game experience. But as with the Pete, it doesn’t take long before a team not winning starts losing attendence.

Comment by VoiceofReason 03.21.17 @ 1:09 pm

I was able to catch the press conference later in the day and I came away impressed. For whatever that is worth. Whereas Barny was unimpressive from jump. Sadly you’re right about there being no chance for a coaching change in basketball. I guess basketball won’t get that performance bump from a full Pete for a long time.

Comment by Will 03.21.17 @ 1:09 pm

Chas – Good summary article above. Although your advice on KS is realistic, I will continue to fantasize, thank you very much. And it’s not just because I think he is a proven, below average coach, and an even worse fit for the university- he has embarrassed Gallagher by his behavior, though I doubt its enough to violate contract stipulations in that area. He’s also had a direct impact on revenue, which if allowed to continue, will be quite costly as well. Do I think, KS will be fired? No, and I’m on record a number of times as saying so, but as a fan, I can always hope… And if we’re stuck with him for another year, yeah, I’ll trying to give it another go and route them on… But then again, right now we have it pretty good with regard to hoops, we have an increasingly angry and frustrated fan base, the fear is that if this trend continues too much longer, we’ll have devolved into penn st. hoops, where nobody even cares any more.

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 1:29 pm

There maybe a scandal involving KS’s Alcohol/Crack addiction. That would explain the substitution & time out strategies employed this past season.

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 03.21.17 @ 2:41 pm

Hey Folks……….. what you comment about is fine, but Pitt needs a new Head Coach for Wrestling…….. NOW !! One of our best announced yesterday he’s transfer to OHIO STATE. AD Lyke needs to get a new coach so we can recruit the talent.

Comment by Mtoolmn 03.21.17 @ 3:18 pm

Need I remind everyone that the BB slide began long before KS got here. The hate on this site for him is unbelievable. It is not his fault he took a job that was offered him. Blame the other that is long gone. I am surprised that none of the BB experts on this site have heard things from the Johnsons or Luthers who live in the area about his competency. His on court behavior is no worse than what we have seen before.

Comment by JP 03.21.17 @ 4:33 pm

Yep, Pitt slid right into the NCAA tournament last season and lost to a higher seeded Sweet 16 team. Basically same Wisconsin team just beat #1 seeded Villanova over the weekend.

This season, while returning nearly the entire core roster from last season Pitt slid into 14th place in the ACC, their first losing season in 16 years, and their worst conference winning percentage in 40 years. KS knowing full well Pitt’s roster composition and incoming class when accepting the job. KS coming in fresh off a 20 point loss in an NCAA play-in game last year. His first tournament visit in 4 seasons. Two future NBA draft picks on the roster.

I haven’t seen a coach clearly cursing out his players since KS did it 2 years ago.

I also have never been a fan of a coach who doesn’t accept ultimate accountability and publicly admonishes players.

How’s that for basketball expertise?

Comment by Barvo 03.21.17 @ 4:59 pm

JP – If you’ve followed this blog at all, it is common knowledge that the bb slide began years ago due to JD’s recruiting problems, I don’t recall anyone denying that. But what I take issue with is your presumption of “hate” directed at KS, that’s a bunch of over-dramatic BS. Some guys have chosen poor use of words, etc. (I for one never did so), but I don’t think anybody “hates” the guy. Personally, I want him gone because of his past performance at Vandy, and his handling of the teams this year- those are concrete issues, not personal in nature. Further, his behavior on court is clearly worse than what we’re accustomed to under Dixon and he has not represented the university well in my opinion. But hate? Give it a break. And as I said earlier, I’ll be rooting for the team again next year. Personally, I’d love for KS to prove me wrong and have a lot of success, I just don’t see how he overcomes all that history…

Comment by 1618mt 03.21.17 @ 5:50 pm

Bravo – Barvo – Bravo!

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 03.21.17 @ 6:11 pm

4k missing fans for 20 home games (70% capacity) = $2.4 M in lost ticket revenue, parking, merchandise and concessions. Not to mention damage to the brand and recruiting. Barnes salary < Cost to the program. Fire his ASS now!

Comment by TX Panther 03.21.17 @ 6:24 pm

Few hate KS. I hate the damage he’s doing to the program and brand. I hate that Pitt will lose millions each year. I hate that Pitt’s AD will do very little about it. Surprise Miss Lykeweight.

Comment by TX Panther 03.21.17 @ 6:27 pm

Mike, get yourself under control or get out. I don’t care how awkward the annual tailgate you make up from Dallas get.

Comment by Chas 03.21.17 @ 8:05 pm

Barvo, I’m not a KS fan. Placing the blame on the HC for a drop off like we had is the correct call. But there was another major change for Pitt BB between last season and this season…that being the loss of one James Robinson. Looking at the results between the two seasons, I can conclude that JR was a really good college PG. And, of course, he was seemingly more maligned than praised on this blog.

Comment by HbgFrank 03.21.17 @ 7:11 pm

Good call Jp. It was obvious that some of our leaders decided they weren’t going to listen to ks. There’s not a whole lot ks could have done.

Comment by Goalie44 03.21.17 @ 7:36 pm

Chas, curious as to whom you might have been directing your rant yesterday about Lyke commentary?

With the exception of maybe one comment, I did not read anything that seemed “misogynistic or sexist”… unless of course it was in reference to posts you possibly deleted.

No need to name names, but simply curious as to what you saw as being so out of line.

Comment by PittofDreams 03.21.17 @ 7:41 pm

JR was a leader. Not a bad baller either. I really miss Wannamaker.

Comment by TX Panther 03.21.17 @ 8:03 pm

Rant = Emel
UPitt on notice

Comment by TX Panther 03.21.17 @ 8:04 pm

Understood Chas

Comment by TX Panther 03.21.17 @ 8:11 pm

TX – Wannamaker is one of my all-time favorites.

JR’s issue is that he peaked so damn early. Great kid though. Last winter I was on campus with my kids and we were on top of the hill outside of the Pete and JR and couple of other guys come out after practice. My oldest loved him and recognized him immediately. Before I had time to stop him he was already chatting with JR and Mike Young. JR had that scar from cracking his head on the floor vs. Gonzaga on that wet floor in Japan and apparently my son had told JR he was his favorite player because he came right back in. JR spent 5 or 6 minutes dribbling around with the kids. Mike Young was funny too. He said “what about my broken back?”. My son deadpanned “did you bleed?”. Lol. This season when Mike Young was wearing the mask my son said he probably owes him an apology now … “but there was still no blood”.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.21.17 @ 8:36 pm

I’m no KS fan. I thought he was an uninspired hire. He is a poor game manager. His behavior is pretty offensive. He could have gotten more out of this team. But he had no chance from the start. No point guard, no center and no depth. Injuries. No impact freshman. Same group of players who quit on Jamie the year before. Jamie left at the right time, because he knew what the future held. He let the program deteriorate under his watch. Stallings inherited a mess.

Comment by MissingWlat 03.21.17 @ 10:26 pm

Ok let’s do it this way….I will give The University of Pittsburghs new AD Heather a welcome gift of $1000 if she gets rid of Stallings. My word….who’s with me???

Comment by Dan 72 03.21.17 @ 11:18 pm

Dan 72, love it! don’t think I’ll throw in a dime, but I’ll throw in a nickel.

Comment by PTG 03.21.17 @ 11:45 pm

Dan 72 – I’m in on the exta $1,000 donation to the Pitt athletic department if she rids the university of KS. Whether by firing, mutual parting of ways or KS decides to resign, I will kick in at least that extra amount.

The P5 openings for BB coaches are closing fast and there have been some pretty good hires.

Cal might be a good fit if his baseball catcher son lands in the minors in Portland – he’d also be closer to his buddy Barnes.

Indiana is a no way, no chance, never gonna happen in a million years for KS. I hope I’m wrong…

Looking at lower level openings that could happen with the HC moving to take the Indiana job – how about Wichita State or Dayton? I could see Stallings at Wichita State…

Oops, I forgot Chas didn’t want us to go there regarding Stallings departure – probably my last post on the Blather.

For the record – I do not hate Kevin Stallings the man, I strongly dislike him as a BB coach, his history of work and his demeanor on the court. That last one has to carry over into the halls of the University of Pittsburgh – not a good look.


Comment by Erie Express 03.22.17 @ 5:07 am

Part of the reason Greg Marshall hasn’t left Wichita St is he’s an administrative nightmare … just look at his wife this weekend.

Sounds like IU may be targeting Billy Donovan.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.22.17 @ 8:01 am

TT – wow, just found the article about Lynn Marshall, how disgusting & embarrassing for a wife of a coach (or any grown up) to behave that way, I hope she gets some help. Greg is one heckuva coach though.

Comment by 1618mt 03.22.17 @ 9:01 am

No doubt name calling seems a way of life for some on the blog…and that likely seems, or really is, hate.

And we might debate the particulars all we want, but Upitt once said it very well a number of posts back: To paraphrase, Jamie Dixon was flawed, and very, very, very good coach and person as well…and KS is average at best and has no track record to dispel that as anything but the plain truth. So we wanted a step up and took a step down, plain and simple. We should not have to settle for that…not if you love Pitt BBall like I do.

And I would add, JD was particularly good at maximizing average talent…and Stalling’s history is of making maximum talent average.

So given Pitt has average talent…the downfall was far, far more than losing JR.

Comment by DD 03.22.17 @ 12:38 pm

yes dd, jamie is gone. he wanted to leave. time to move on.

Comment by goalie44 03.22.17 @ 1:57 pm

Our new AD repeated her acceptance speech from EMU. You tube it and google it and you will hear the exact same lines! To me it shows a lack of effort and innovation. She had three years to prepare her next speech. Disheartening for me. And, she wasn’t a fast tracker at OSU. 16 years and just an Associate AD. OSU probably has 10 Associate and Sr. Associate AD’s.

That said, I like her better than the last 4-5 AD’s. Kind of weird that her spouse and kids live in Canton. Never a good thing for the work life, when the personal life is abnormal.

Comment by Huff 03.22.17 @ 6:01 pm

Come on guys gotta Lyke this hire she seems to be a genuine person who can make a difference. Only thing that bothered me was no mention of the Pitt Bball program.

Comment by PittPanFan 03.23.17 @ 7:58 am

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