Pitt announced yesterday that women's basketball coach Agnus Berenato has received a three-year contract extension which runs through the 2015-16 season.
Financial terms of the deal were not released, though Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said it includes a raise and puts Berenato in a category that is "competitive" with some of the more successful coaches in terms of salary within the Big East.
"I hope this is my last coaching job. I hope I can finish my career here at the University of Pittsburgh," Berenato said. "This has been a great fit for me and my family, and I absolutely am not looking to go somewhere else, to either rebuild a program or start a program or go to a program that is already building and then continue someone else's legacy. I have no interest in that. I'm happy here.
"I think the university and its administration have shown great loyalty to me and I am a loyal person and I am all about the team, but the team is not just the women's basketball program, but the university, the community and the city. So this is where we want to be and we love it here."
Berenato is entering her sixth season with the Panthers, and she has taken the program to unprecedented heights.
The Panthers have racked up a long list of firsts: their first Sweet 16 appearance, at least 20 victories for the third consecutive season, back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournament and, last season, earning a rank in both the pre- and postseason.
And she did all of this at a program that, when she arrived, had hit rock bottom and was one of the worst in the Big East, if not the country.
But beyond what she's done on the court, Berenato has also been a champion of academics -- every player who has exhausted her eligibility has graduated -- and community service, and she has helped to grow the popularity of the women's program in terms of attendance and exposure, nationally and locally.
She has also won the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year award twice as well as numerous other awards and citations for her and her team's work with charity and community service projects.
"I can tell you absolutely that she has changed the lives of the young women on this team," Pederson said. "I mean, we love them all and we think they are all great -- but all of them didn't come in exactly on the path that a lot of them have had. I don't know if I know of anyone that works harder than Agnus at all the rest of making sure their student-athletes lives are great."
Berenato's contract extension is the latest in what seems to be a growing trend of trying to promote stability at Pitt within the athletic department, as football coach Dave Wannstedt received a contract extension in December and a few weeks ago Pitt announced a contract extension for men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon.
Pederson said that isn't a coincidence, but rather is a testament to the quality of coaches Pitt has and its commitment to keep them for the long term.
"We have good people here," Pederson said. "The stability of our program is the reason we are successful. Obviously if you don't feel like you have the right people you feel differently about that.
"But when you have great people, you can tell them that all you want, but you also have to let them know in a physical and tangible way that is true and you also have to let the world know that as well. I think that's important."
NOTES -- Ashlee Anderson, a 5-foot-9 guard from Whitney Young High School in Illinois, recently made a verbal commitment to the Panthers. She chose Pitt over DePaul, Boston College and Oklahoma State.
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720.