Agnus Berenato will not return as Pitt's women's basketball coach next season, according to a release Monday from the university.
Berenato coached the Panthers for 10 seasons, compiling a 161-149 record. The past two seasons saw a rapid decline in success, though. Pitt went winless in its final two Big East Conference regular seasons, losing 36 in a row.
"We have high aspirations for Pitt women's basketball and have witnessed the program achieving at impressive levels in the past," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said in a statement. "As we begin [Atlantic Coast Conference] play next season, the time is right for a leadership change in the program."
Berenato was hired by Pitt in 2003 after 15 seasons at Georgia Tech. She guided the Panthers to new heights, including the program's first NCAA tournament appearance in 2007 and back-to-back Sweet 16s in 2008 and 2009. Earlier this season, she became Pitt's all-time career wins leader.
Before Berenato's arrival, Pitt only had one winning season since 1995. After two rebuilding years in 2003-04 and 2004-05, Berenato led the Panthers to a 22-11 record and an WNIT appearance in 2005-06, tying a program record for wins in a season.
Berenato was popular among her players, though struggled to recruit elite talent to Pitt over the past few seasons.
The program began to dip in 2010-11, going 14-17 overall, 5-10 in the Big East, and missing the postseason for the first time in four years. The decline continued, and the Panthers went winless in their final two seasons in the conference.
In most games, the Panthers struggled to remain competitive, losing 10 Big East games by double digits.
A university release said Pitt will begin a "national search" for a new head coach immediately.
One name that likely will arise in the search will be Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. A Seton-LaSalle High School and Penn State graduate, McConnell-Serio has led the Dukes to the WNIT each of the past five seasons and tied her program record with 24 wins this season.
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published April 2, 2013 4:00 AM