Column | Pitt athletes who could return and coach their former teams


TPN File Photo

Chinaza Ndee returns the ball during a game in 2019.

By Jermaine Sykes, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt has a long history of stellar players across the entire athletic department. While these athletes may or may not have gone on to have successful careers in sports, their prowess in their respective niches and rapport at Pitt makes them perfect candidates for possible coaching roles in the future.

Chinaza Ndee, Volleyball

Ndee has a storied career as a Panther. Pitt volleyball won three consecutive ACC championships in Ndee’s first three seasons in Oakland. Ndee and the Panthers achieved the program’s first Elite Eight and Final Four appearances in her senior and fifth-year seasons, respectively.

Individually, Ndee is one of the best players in program history. She is No. 2 in school history in block assists and No. 3 in total blocks. She also finished her career top 10 in Pitt history in block assists, total blocks, kills and hitting percentage.

Ndee obtained her master’s in psychology at Pitt in 2022 and earned a scholarship to pursue medical school at Pitt. But if she wanted a return to volleyball, an opportunity for her to coach alongside current Pitt head coach Dan Fisher could open up down the line. She already attended countless games every year in support of her old teammates and was a naturally vocal and emotional leader on the court. The jump to coaching doesn’t seem far-fetched!

Brandin Knight, Men’s Basketball

As the Panthers’ point guard in the early-2000s, Knight excelled as a playmaker and scorer. He’s the Panthers’ all-time leader in assists and added 1,440 career points, highlighting his abilities as an all-around player. 

But Knight’s stats weren’t just for show — he was the undisputed leader for the Panthers, who put together one of the program’s best stretches in school history. In Knight’s junior and senior seasons, the Panthers went to two straight Sweet 16, including the school’s first-ever Big East championship in 2002-03.

Knight’s career was cut short due to injury, but he quickly returned to the Petersen Events Center as an assistant coach from 2008-16. 

Knight currently serves as an associate head coach at Rutgers and is renowned for his coaching abilities. But if the Pitt head coaching job opens up any time soon, Knight make an incredibly popular candidate for the position.

Sean Miller, Men’s Basketball

One of the most obvious head coaching candidates down the line for Pitt basketball is Sean Miller, a point guard for the Panthers from 1987-92.

A Pittsburgh native, Miller stayed home, playing four seasons at Pitt and starting in 124 games. Miller averaged 10 points and 5.8 assists per game, and the Panthers made three NCAA tournament appearances during his tenure. 

After his playing career, Miller was an assistant coach at multiple institutions, including one season at Pitt. Miller took an assistant coach position at Xavier and wasn’t promoted to head coach until 2004. But Miller shined in his new role, leading the Musketeers to four NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight appearance.

Miller then became head coach at Arizona, where he created a national power. The Arizona Wildcats made the NCAA tournament in seven of Miller’s first nine seasons as head coach, and ranked No. 1 nationally multiple times over his tenure.

Miller returned to Xavier in 2022 after Arizona fired him for NCAA violations and a decline in performance. While he’s contracted for six years with his new school and experiencing a very successful return campaign, a move to a potentially rising Pitt basketball program seems like a very logical next step in his career.

Therese Pitman, Women’s Lacrosse

Unlike the others on this list, Pitman played a majority of her lacrosse career outside of Pitt. Pitman played five seasons of collegiate lacrosse at Birmingham and Siena before transferring to Pitt for her final year of eligibility. 

In their inaugural season, the Panthers finished 9-10 and Pitman performed well as a defender,  causing 18 turnovers and 33 ground balls. 

But her most lasting impact isn’t necessarily as a player — she’s now most known for her new role in helping student-athletes off the field. Pitman obtained her master’s in public administration during the season and is currently a leadership and development intern with the NCAA. She’s an advocate for athletes, seeking to help those struggling with mental health.

Pitman will always be a centerpiece of Pitt women’s lacrosse history as a member of the inaugural team. Her knowledge of lacrosse, and interest in working with athletes both on and off of the field leaves her as a prime candidate for a position within the program in the future.

Tre Tipton, Football

Tipton played wide receiver for Pitt from 2015-21. He finished his career with 400 yards and 40 catches and was a member of the 2021 ACC championship winning team. But Tipton’s impact at Pitt is deeper than just his statistical production, as his work to end the stigma in athletics surrounding mental health was a national story and inspiration to many.

Tipton received his master’s in social work at Pitt, and in 2022 Pitt brought him onto the staff as a mental prosperity coach.

Tipton is just 26, but his story along with his ties to Pitt football can take him a long way. Down the line, don’t be surprised to see Tipton in an on-field coaching role, or even in a prominent role with the athletic department as a whole.