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|Posted: 12/14/19 1:15 am :::
|For those of you who care...dang, this is long!
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McConnell sisters back into coaching ... at the high school level
Suzie McConnell-Serio and Kathy McConnell-Miller have done many things together for years, going all the way back to their childhood days, sharing a bedroom with three other sisters at the family home in Brookline. Kathy and Suzie also formed a terrific backcourt on a state championship basketball team at Seton LaSalle High School in 1984.
As coaches, their careers often traveled in the same lane and even intersected. Both coached in the WNBA, both were head coaches at major-college women’s programs and they also coached together at Pitt, Suzie as the head coach and Kathy as an assistant.
After being let go at Pitt after the 2017-18 season, they took a year off from coaching. But now the two sisters are back in the business — and they are once again mirroring each other. Suzie and Kathy are coaches at, of all places, the high school level. And WPIAL girls basketball might be all the better for it.
The return of the Macs has brought the sisters from big-time, major-college basketball to riding school buses and coaching teenagers. But these are two women in their 50s, stepping into the high school pool — and truly enjoying it. And the reason they are doing it is simple:
“I’m doing this because it’s my husband. I wouldn’t do it for anyone else,” McConnell-Serio said.
McConnell-Serio is an assistant coach at Upper St. Clair and get this: Her boss is the one she goes home with every evening. Pete Serio, Suzie’s husband, is Upper St. Clair’s coach.
As for McConnell-Miller, she said, “I didn’t see this on my radar a year or two ago.”
“This” is the head coach’s job at Trinity High School. McConnell-Miller was hired at the Washington County school in September. One of the main reasons she took the job is the mom hat that she wears.
“I’ve moved with my family so many times in my career,” McConnell-Miller said. “The fact that my youngest daughter (Macie) wants to stay in Pittsburgh, wants to go to Mt. Lebanon High School, wants to experience high school with all of her friends because she loves Mt. Lebanon so much, that made me want to stay here.
“I never thought I would end up at the high school level, but a situation presented itself. I thought long and hard. But this is coaching. This is what I do. So I decided to jump in with both feet.”
Trinity also gave McConnell-Miller a job as director of college and careers programs/public relations. She and her husband, Brad, reside in Mt. Lebanon and have three children.
McConnell-Serio and her husband, a physical education teacher in the Upper St. Clair district, live in Upper St. Clair and their four children all are in their 20s. Coaching is Suzie’s only job and she joked, “the retired life is really good right now.”
High school coaching isn’t foreign to McConnell-Serio. She was Oakland Catholic’s first girls coach and won four WPIAL titles and three PIAA championships in 13 seasons (1990-2003). One of her assistants for a few years was her husband.
But Kathy McConnell never coached high school before and she and Suzie give the McConnell coaching tree two more branches again. One brother, Tim McConnell, is the well-known girls coach at Chartiers Valley and won a state championship last year after 25 highly-successful years as the school’s boys coach. Another brother, Tom, has enjoyed plenty of winning as the women’s coach at IUP.
“I knew what high school was like,” Suzie said, “and I told Kathy, ‘You will enjoy this more than you think you will.’ I think she has.”
‘I’m so much happier’
McConnell-Serio’s return to coaching wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing. It was a gradual process. After being let go at Pitt, she purposely stayed away from coaching, besides helping her husband with player development workouts in the summer with his Upper St. Clair team.
But an Upper St. Clair assistant left this year and Pete and his wife kept having conversations about Suzie filling the position. Suzie finally agreed — and suddenly a marriage had a coaching marriage part also.
“She’s really good, ridiculously good,” Pete Serio said. “Bringing her on is what’s best for the kids. My ego can go out the door. I don’t care. She brings energy and passion and she’s lived it. She’s a great role model.”
But three times during the course of an interview, Suzie was emphatic about something.
“I want to reiterate — this is Pete’s team,” she said. “We work very well together, but I’m just here to help.”
When Pitt fired McConnell-Serio in April of 2018, part of her buyout deal was not to comment on matters at Pitt. She hadn’t spoken to the media until a week ago when she sat in a coaches office at Upper St. Clair and could only talk in generalities about her Pitt days.
“Was I hurt? No. But obviously your sense of pride is hurt,” McConnell-Serio said.
McConnell-Serio is one of the greatest athletes ever from Pittsburgh. She was an All-American point guard at Penn State, setting an NCAA record for career assists. She won an Olympic gold medal and then played in the WNBA. She was a Pittsburgh hero.
After her coaching days at Oakland Catholic, she spent three years coaching the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA and then made her mark in six seasons at Duquesne University, winning 20 or more games in her final five years. Pitt brought her across town in 2013 and there was an NCAA tournament appearance for the Panthers in 2015. But things went downhill and Pitt was 10-20 in McConnell-Serio’s final season.
McConnell-Serio said her last year at Pitt wore terribly on her. Friends and family said she wasn’t the same Suzie.
“Mentally, the year off from coaching was good,” McConnell-Serio said. “I worked for four athletic directors in five years at Pitt, counting an interim AD. It was very different every year. You understand that people want their own people in jobs. When all that happened at Pitt, I needed a break. I couldn’t have done this (coaching at Upper St. Clair) a year ago.”
McConnell-Serio took the high road about her days at Pitt.
“I was probably angry at the end. I wasn’t myself. But that’s what the job did,” she said. “It was everything that created it, but nothing I really want to discuss. … It is what it is. Things like that happen. Athletic directors like their own people and have a different vision. I’m so much happier now. Everyone says that.”
‘I love it’
Kathy McConnell-Miller was her sister’s associate head coach at Pitt, but Kathy also knows about being ousted as a head coach. She was fired as the University of Colorado’s coach in 2010.
“I never once was worried about myself,” McConnell-Miller said. “I always worried about Suzie and the fact that this was her hometown. It was very unfortunate the way it happened. If I could share anything it’s that she gave Pitt her everything. … Everybody knows Pitt is a really tough job. But that’s how the profession works. She’s a fighter and she’s always taken the high road. I know she’ll be successful in whatever she does.”
McConnell-Miller is off to a successful start at Trinity when you consider the Hillers defeated defending PIAA Class 6A champion Peters Township on Monday, 66-53.
Besides Colorado and Pitt, McConnell-Miller also was the head coach at Tulsa and an assistant at both the college and WNBA levels. She is enthralled with the Trinity job.
“I love it,” McConnell-Miller said. “I don’t think I can explain how much I enjoy the Trinity students, the administration and the players. They’ve been great to me. To be involved in the student body on a daily basis makes me feel so connected.”
Besides coaching and working for Trinity, McConnell also has landed a gig to be a color commentator for a few women’s college games on ESPN in January. As for her team?
“I wondered about what the commitment level would be with high school players. But I’ll tell you this team will match any college team’s commitment level on getting better,” McConnell-Miller said.
Neither Suzie nor Kathy preferred to look far into the future about their coaching careers. McConnell-Miller said, “I dove in with both feet to this job and I’m 100% committed to helping these players reach their personal and team goals.”
McConnell-Serio said, “When some jobs have opened up in college, Pete and I have talked about them and would I have an interest? Some jobs are intriguing, but right now I’m very content of being where I am in life.”
There is one particular future game that is intriguing to the entire McConnell family. On Jan. 2, Trinity plays host to Chartiers Valley. It will be Kathy against her brother, Tim. Kathy and her brother run a youth basketball clinic together every Sunday morning.
“Nobody wants to play Timbo, including me,” Kathy said with a laugh. “I’m a rookie. I hope he takes it easy on me.”
Jack Thompson18 hours ago
God Bless these sisters for their lives of helping others
William of Covfefe1 day ago
Congrats to the McConnell Sisters!
jmp1 day ago
Cleavage is important in Basketball.
Jack Dziubek1 day ago
The McConnell's and the Miller's (Sean, Archie, and John) help keep Pittsburgh basketball alive.
Gregory Itle1 day ago
Best of luck!
There is nothing new under the sun.