Perhaps the biggest change the Panthers will have to endure is one that will take place off the court, but fans are worrying it will ultimately affect everything on the court.
Assistant coach and ace recruiter Barry "Slice" Rohrssen, who had just begun his second tour of duty on Jamie Dixon's sideline in 2013-14, has left the program to join Moon Township native and friend John Calipari's staff at Kentucky. Director of basketball operations Brian Regan will fulfill the rest of Rohrssen's recruiting obligations to Pitt while it looks for a new assistant, and there doesn't appear to be a distinct favorite at this point.
Oddly enough, Rohrssen will be replacing another coach with Pittsburgh ties, Orlando Antigua. Antigua, a Pitt alumnus and Calipari assistant of five years, will take over South Florida's men's program in the wake of the Steve Masiello controversy.
Oh, and, just to put a nice, neat bow on this whole package, it was Masiello who succeeded Rohrssen as Manhattan's head coach in 2011.
Anyway, Slice's greatest accomplishment at Pitt was bringing in some of the best talent the New York City area had to offer in the early 2000s, helping keep the program competitive in the Big East from 1999 until his original departure in 2006. Big man Chris Taft and floor generals Carl Krauser and Levance Fields all came to Oakland via the Big Apple, and all contributed greatly to great teams.
In 2005, the year before Rohrssen took his old job at Manhattan, Scout.com ranked Pitt's recruiting class 23rd nationally and fourth in the Big East. That group included Fields and future NBA draftee Sam Young. Both players were fixtures when the Panthers made an Elite Eight appearance in 2009 that came within a gnat's eyelash of turning into a Final Four appearance—the high-water mark of Dixon's tenure at Pitt.
But after Rohrssen left, Pitt cracked Scout's national top 25 four of the next six years, ranking among the top 20 on three occasions. The 2010-11 Panthers echoed the success of the '08-'09 squad by earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they actually did them one better by earning a Big East regular-season title. So it's a myth that Dixon "needs" Slice to keep his program cutting-edge.
Nevertheless, a major concern of Pitt fans is how the departure of Rohrssen affects the status of top Class of 2016 recruit Mustapha Heron. Heron (6'4", 185 lbs.), a gritty small forward ranked fifth nationally at his position by Panther Digest, is a potential game-changer who would mesh beautifully with Pitt, given his rough-and-tumble style.
The West Haven, Conn. native chose Pitt early in his high school career because of his friendship with Rohrssen. He might follow Slice to Lexington, but, as Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Kevin Gorman shared, there's at least a puncher's chance Heron remains a Panther after all:
Thanks to assistant coach Brandin Knight, Pitt is already off to a nice start with its 2015 class; 4-star shooting guard Damon Wilson, a Powder Springs, Ga. native entering his senior season at Our Savior New American in Centereach, N.Y., has come aboard.
Meanwhile, local guard Cameron Johnson from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Iowa JUCO center Tyrone Haughton were added this week to the 2014 class.
Don't worry about Pitt losing the recruiting trail, but the trail may be rerouted now that Rohrssen is gone.