Let’s party like it’s 1993.
Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Meat Loaf top the Billboard Hot 100 nationwide. Michael Jordan is striking out in minor league baseball for the Birmingham Barons after his first three-peat and subsequent retirement from the NBA. Bill Clinton is named the 42nd president of the United States and the internet is born in CERN.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, head coach Paul Evans and the Pitt men’s basketball team were busy losing — a then-Panthers record, nine games in row.
The 1993-1994 Panthers got off to a hot 13-4 start before dropping their last eight games of the regular season and the first game of the conference tournament to the Red Storm of St. John’s.
In what amounted to Evans’ last season as Pitt’s head coach, senior center Eric Mobley and junior guard Jerry McCullough lead the way in scoring, averaging 13.7 and 13.3 points, respectively. Those Panthers finished the season with a losing record — 13-14 overall.
The seconds wound down on 1993, time passed and this year’s Panthers likely dream of quite the opposite, winning the rest of their games to finish one game under .500. Heck, before its losing streak began, the team sat at a healthy 8-5.
Pitt is in the midst of a record-setting season, but the Panthers aren’t setting the kind of records they want their names attached to. The current 11-game losing streak is the longest in program history and likely has further unsavory implications.
At 8-16, Pitt hasn’t won a game in well over a month since a tight 63-59 victory over Towson Dec. 22. The losing streak coincides with the start of conference play — a nice way of saying the Panthers are winless in the ACC at 0-11. The tightest loss in the streak so far was a 72-68 home loss to NC State on Jan. 24.
The Pitt record for conference losses — whether ACC, Big East, EAA, ECBL or EIC — in a season is 14, which was set last year in head coach Kevin Stallings’ first season at the helm. The Panthers have seven regular season games left, all in-conference.
Imagine, if you will, the rest of the season goes the way the past 11 have, and Pitt finds itself with a record of 8-23 — 18 losses in a row. That hypothetically gives this Panthers team the most losses in University history. The next closest team, futility-wise, is the 1976-1977 Pitt team.
The 1976-1977 Pitt men’s team finished the season with a putrid 6-21 record in Tim Grgurich’s second season as head coach. The team limped to a 1-9 conference record in the Panthers’ lone season in the Eastern Collegiate Basketball League. The 1976-1977 team’s single conference win is the lowest total in school history.
Still, Grgurich went on to coach the Panthers for three more seasons, all of them winning ones.
Moving forward, Pitt’s remaining schedule features two top-25 teams — the two best teams in the ACC, No. 16 Clemson and No. 2 Virginia. The schedule also features four middle-of-the-pack teams in Louisville, Boston College, Florida State and Notre Dame. Louisville and Notre Dame both started the season ranked, and all four have winning records.
Pitt’s best chance to win — realistically — and break the streak will come Feb. 21, against fellow ACC bottom dweller Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are sitting pretty, relative to the Panthers, already with two conference wins and a 9-14 record overall.
As for now, if the Panthers are able to turn things around, they can still avoid setting some records in futility. With two wins, the Panthers can avoid having the fewest conference wins in program history. With three wins, the Panthers can escape sole possession of the most losses in program history.
The Panthers will look to cut their streak and avoid any more school records with their next game tonight against the No. 16 Clemson tigers.