Q&A for May 31st
By Chris Dokish
Q: I assume Dave Letaio was the assistant coach that you were referring to a few weeks ago that Jamie Dixon wanted. Was Pat Skerry a big drop off?
A: Letaio was the coach I mentioned, but as my boss at NBE can attest to, Skerry was who I thought Pitt should hire. He has all it takes to be an absolute dynamo at Pitt and he will be an excellent head coach in the near future. It was another major statement by Pitt that they are in the big time. Not just anybody can hire a superstar assistant from a rival school. Bottom line, Skerry will make a big splash at Pitt.
Q: There was a big story about the two giants at Kiski being in Pitt's sites. One of them even got an offer from West Virginia. How good are these kids?
A: Well, put it this way. I have a better chance of getting a scholarship to play at Pitt and I'm 42 and out of shape. I told one Big East assistant that it was reported that WVU offered the kid, and he literally laughed and said, "There's no way in hell, but I wish they did". In other words, don't believe the hype. Even if one of these kids did somehow get a major offer, they would never see the floor. And Pitt will definitely not be that team.
Q: It was reported in the Post-Gazette that J.J. Moore is eligible because he can play in the Pro-Am at Greentree. Can you verify that?
A: He is still not eligible and being on the roster means nothing. From what I was told, it's still too early to say if he will eventually be eligible.
Q: With Skerry now the assistant there is a lot of chatter about Pitt landing Khem Birch, Andre Drummond, and Omar Calhoun. What do you think the chances are of the Panthers landing all three?
A: I don't know, maybe 1%. And that's being optimistic. I know some fans want to get all excited and I love the hiring of Skerry, but if some of the fans are going around talking about landing all three then I would be remiss not to say something. Better to have your hopes crushed now before you believe it too much.
The most likely possibility is Birch. It will be interesting to see how that one plays out. I could definitely see that as a possibility, but it's too early to say yet. Skerry was never heavily involved with Calhoun so he can't help much there. The person who is close with Calhoun is Rasheen Davis but he will likely be gone before Calhoun would ever step foot in college so I don't see how that will help either. Do the Panthers have a chance at Calhoun? Yes. Do I think they will get him? No. The competition will be too tough. Because of his great academics he will be able to pick his school. As for Drummond, forget it. He will be in even higher demand than Calhoun. But even if Pitt only gets Birch, that would be an excellent pickup. And if they get none of the three, they will still get somebody good. They usually do.
Q: Where were you at during the hiring of Skerry? Usually you are right on it.
A: I was in the middle of moving to Moon Township from New York City. I got the word but I was on the road at the time and really couldn't do anything about it. But I was very happy for the Pitt program when I heard.
Q: If the Pro-Am has no value, then why did you say that you will be there for all the games this summer?
A: I didn't say it didn't have value. It's a great thing. I just don't think there's a coach in the country that thinks that such leagues have any bearing on how a player will play in the upcoming season. In fact, every coach I've talked to on the subject has told me that exact thing. You have high school players, college players, and graduated college players playing, then even amongst the college players you have players from high major schools down to very small colleges. The disparity among all of these levels is great. In other words, if Lamar Patterson lights up a kid from Geneva for 40 points this summer, what exactly does that prove? It means he could average 40 ppg in Geneva's league probably but that doesn't mean he could average even 5 ppg in the Big East this season.
Plus, you have different levels of intensity. As an example, let's say that somebody like Keith Benjamin was playing in the league this year and he came up against Isaiah Epps in a game. Epps could be playing like a madman to prove himself and Benjamin may be just trying to stay in shape. The result would be that Epps would outplay him and everybody would assume he was better than Benjamin, when in reality Benjamin could school him at any time due to his experience and physical maturity. So what you would get is a skewed result. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it was fun to watch and that it was beneficial to Epps. It just doesn't mean that Epps is better than Benjamin right now and I think that's how a lot of fans would see it.
The benefits of the league, on the other hand, are many. It keeps the players in shape, keeps them out of trouble on some boring summer nights, and helps the newcomers assimilate to the increased speed of the game. In addition, it's great for the fans to see the players up close and personal, not to mention show their love of basketball by, in at least one case, pay for a team to exist. And that latter fact may be the most impressive thing about the entire league. Bottom line, I will be there and I'll be enjoying it just like it did in the past when I caught some games.
Q: Your cohort at NBE, Ray Mernagh, said that John Johnson will be a top 35 player soon. Is he crazy?
A: No, I've been saying for months that he is a top 50 talent. The kid is the deal real, trust me. And if you don't want to trust me, then trust Ray.