Brother and sister share relationship with Pitt basketball


Talk to siblings Jason and Lindsay Richards, and they’ll describe their relationship over the years as close. 

For the last year and a half, that adjective has described the proximity of their workplaces, too. 

Sitting inside the Petersen Events Center recently, Lindsay put the distance in perspective with the point of a finger. The offices of the Pitt men’s basketball team — where Jason works as director of analytics and video coordinator — look out over the court from above section 112, while the women’s team — of which Lindsay is an assistant coach — is based nearby atop section 116.

It’s a distance that they estimate amounts to about 50 feet of separation, or a 10-second walk. 

“Literally right down the hall,” Lindsay said.

The setup is a tangible reminder of a serendipitous continuation of one family’s history with the University and the sport.

Tom Richards, Jason and Lindsay’s father, grew up in nearby Moon Township and went to Pitt, where he played point guard for the Panthers from 1972-76. He helped the team reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history during his sophomore year. 

Mary Beth Richards, Tom’s wife and Jason and Lindsay’s mother, grew up in Murrysville and also attended Pitt, playing basketball in the first year of the women’s program in 1974-1975. 

Tom described basketball as “part of our family DNA.” 

Jason and Lindsay remember watching basketball at Fitzgerald Field House from their time here as children.

“It was such a great atmosphere, and, knowing that’s where my father played, and as a little kid idolizing your father and wanting to do what he did at that level some day and being a part of Pitt basketball where he had played and had made a name for himself and the University, that was by far something I’ll always remember,” Lindsay said.

Jason recalled attending a Midnight Madness event at the Field House one year when the ‘74 team was honored at halftime.

Tom and Mary Beth have pictures of their children with Pitt players such as Jerry McCullough and Eric Mobley, who would come to Upper St. Clair as part of Little Panthers, a program the Richards’ parents created to teach local children how to play basketball.

The Richards family lived in Pittsburgh from 1991 until early 1996 when Tom got a job in Chicago.

“When we left Pittsburgh, I never thought I’d be living here again, to be honest,” Jason said.

But circumstances would bring both Jason and Lindsay back.

Working as a senior account executive at a public relations firm in Chicago for three years, after graduating from Iowa in 2006, Lindsay was happy, but she felt a void. 

“Basketball has always been such a big part of our lives, and, when you love something as much as we love the game, I think it not being in my everyday life, I knew something was missing,” Lindsay said.    

After lengthy consideration, she decided to try to become a coach.

“Once I made the decision that this was something I really wanted to go after and do, you kind of have to go hard,” Lindsay said. 

The former McDonald’s All-American began reaching out to people she knew in the profession, including Suzie McConnell-Serio, about making the transition. Lindsay attended the current Pitt head coach’s basketball camps as a child. Richards then traveled to San Antonio for the Women’s Final Four in April 2010, scheduling meetings there with coaches. It was time to network. 

Her persistence paid off. McConnell-Serio brought her on staff at Duquesne University in June 2010 as the director of basketball operations, before promoting her to assistant a month later. 

Little did she know that her younger brother by two years would be coming as well.

Jason’s path back to Pittsburgh was originally out of his control. Under contract with the Miami Heat after graduating from Davidson in 2008, he tore his ACL that September before the season began. He’d tear it twice more, most recently in his first game back from recovery while with the NBA’s Development League team Utah Flash in January 2010.

“It’s funny because, playing professionally when I was with the Heat, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d become a coach, just because, at that point, you’re so focused on the present and where you want to go with your basketball career,” Jason said.

However, since Lindsay  tore her ACL three times in college, Jason had a sort of awareness about the finite nature of one’s time as an athlete.

“I knew there was always an end to a basketball career, so I had to think about what was next,” he said.

After the second injury, Jason still planned on playing, but coaching moved further onto his radar. When doctors told him he couldn’t play basketball after the third injury, he had to think about the next phase of his life. 

After he ended his career in June 2010, Jason had to figure out what to do next.

He’d find out soon. After hearing about an available video coordinator position on the Pitt men’s team through word of mouth, Jason got in touch with Jamie Dixon. After a number of phone conversations, Jason joined the program that summer as a graduate manager.

“I was lucky,” Jason said. “Everything fell into place.”

The second generation of Richards in Oakland came when McConnell-Serio brought most of her staff from Duquesne the short distance to Pitt following her hiring in April 2013.

“It was like everything came full circle,” Jason said.

“It was awesome. I was no longer the black sheep of the family,” Lindsay said, laughing.

Now the CEO of CDW LLC in Chicago — and a member of Pitt’s Board of Trustees since 2011 — Tom Richards reflected on the past four years with all these different elements coalescing.

“You couldn’t write this if you wanted to,” he said.