New Pitt women’s basketball coach Tory Verdi seeks to build a winning culture at Pitt


Image via Pitt Athletics

Pitt women’s basketball’s new coach, Tory Verdi, enters the Petersen Events Center on Friday.

By Brian Sherry, Assistant Sports Editor

As new Pitt women’s basketball coach Tory Verdi took the stage at his introductory press conference earlier this month, it was clear that he had one thing on his mind — winning. With a commanding presence, Verdi bluntly described his vision for Pitt women’s basketball. 

“I know that we can win here,” Verdi said in the press conference. “I felt it from the moment I stepped foot on campus today. Today, we will act like winners. Today, we will carry ourselves like winners and today, we will look like winners.”

But for Verdi, winning means much more than just records and titles. It means building a culture where players succeed on the court, in the classroom and in their personal lives. 

“How I’ve been and how I’ve coached, no matter if you’re number one or number 14, [the players are] going to feel that sense of love and respect from me,” Verdi said. “They’re gonna know that I have their backs and that I’m here to support them academically, athletically and socially.”

A chance to build a true winning culture is one of the things that drew Verdi to Pitt. Following former Panther head coach Lance White’s departure from the program, the Pitt athletic department began a month-long search for his replacement.

But Verdi quickly emerged as someone with the experience and interest that Pitt was looking for. Verdi said that Pitt’s quality academics and potential for success is what solidified his interest. 

“I just think that it’s a great destination for people who want to be successful academically and athletically,” Verdi said. “Once I stepped foot on campus, I was like, ‘Wow, Pitt has so much to offer.’ I mean, you kind of get that city-urban type feel, a ton of diversity and great facilities.”

But now, as Verdi settles into his new position, his mind is focused on building up the program. Even the night Verdi was hired he was working, reaching out to recruits and focusing on the future. 

“As soon as [Pitt athletic director] Heather Lyke offered me the job, I was recruiting that night.” Verdi said. “Wasn’t much sleep that night, but the wheels are in motion.”

This isn’t the first time Verdi worked to bring success to a losing program. At his previous job, Verdi successfully rebuilt the University of Massachusetts women’s baseball team. Prior to his arrival in 2016, UMass had not finished a season with a winning record in over a decade. But under Verdi, the team gradually built success, eventually winning 26 games and earning an NCAA tournament bid in 2022.

Only time will tell if Verdi can replicate that success at Pitt. But in the meantime, Verdi is finding ways to make his plans a reality.

One major development in the realm of college athletics that Verdi will have to contend with is the transfer portal. Pitt is well accustomed to the transfer portal by now, as the men’s basketball team built much of their roster around the system. 

But Verdi is not the biggest fan of recruiting transfer players. Instead, Verdi prefers to build his program around four-year players straight out of high school.

“I’m more about recruiting the four-year student athlete,” Verdi said. “I think that once you start filling your team up with transfers, they’ve already played for other coaches, they already have their own ideas.”

While building around four-year players is the main goal, Verdi says transfers can still help fill the gaps and add to his team. 

“Then as the years go on, we will tackle the portal and sprinkle in some transfers,” Verdi said. “My whole goal is to have players here that are invested in Pitt women’s basketball.”

But transfers and recruiting are in the long-term plan for the program. If Verdi wants to win over the fans, then he will need to find success in the short term. While Verdi can’t guarantee how many games his team will win, he can guarantee that they will have a desire to work hard and win. 

“We’re gonna show up and we’re trying to win each and every single day,” Verdi said. “You’re going to feel the preparation. They’re going to feel the investment from myself and my staff and then they’re gonna feel what it feels like to practice at a high level each and every single day. Practices are going to be really hard and they’re going to understand that early.”

Verdi may have not yet won over the fans, but he has won over the Pitt athletic department. In Verdi’s introductory press conference, athletic director Heather Lyke expressed confidence in the new women’s basketball coach. 

“As your athletic director, I’ll just tell you that one of the most important and rewarding parts is hiring a new head coach.” Lyke said. “We had great expectations of what we needed in our next leader and we did not settle for anything less. We found that leader in Tory Verdi.”