Dec. 23, 2019
It's been an odd decade for Pittsburgh-area college basketball.
There were some incredible highs from 2000-09, most notably Pitt's 2009 Elite Eight NCAA tournament run led by the dynamic trio of DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields.
Pitt's sustained success last decade created expectations going into this one that were probably too high for their own good. By that logic, one could look at the 2010s as an overall disappointment occasionally punctuated by the kinds of moments college basketball fans live for.
There was a bit of March Madness excitement, though there was much more heartbreak, like Pitt missing the postseason for half the decade.
With the decade coming to a close, let's take a look back at how the basketball programs at Pitt, Duquesne and Robert Morris fared from 2010-19.
Click a category below.
Running back Le'Veon Bell was an All-Pro running for the Steelers 690 days ago. JuJu Smith-Schuster had just completed his final season at USC. Antonio Brown was showing up for work. [Jeff] Capel was an assistant coach at Duke. [Chris] Mack was at Xavier, and [Kevin] Stallings had a winning record. Sure, Pitt's just 1-1 in the conference with an incredibly daunting schedule ahead. After what this program has been through, 1-1 looks pretty sweet.
— Joe Starkey, Jan. 9, 2019
"What I don't want is people to think that I don't love Pittsburgh or I didn't love being at Pitt, because I did."
"This is a shot in the arm for them and they deserve to win the game. If we'd have won at the buzzer, it would have been a shame."
"You said he got a seven-year deal? [whistle] He must have got a pay raise, too. I'm definitely going to give him a call tonight. He's got to take me to lunch when I get back home, that's for sure."
"This will be my last job, I don't want to go anywhere else."
"I thought this was the year. I was confident. It's tough for it to end like this."
"Duke is a good team; we're a better team and we showed it tonight."
Gilbert Brown knows that things could've been different if he had just hit that free throw.
With 1.4 seconds left to go in Pitt's second-round game against Butler in the 2011 NCAA tournament, Brown was fouled by the Bulldogs' Shelvin Mack. He made the first free throw attempt, but the second circled the hoop before finally rimming out.
Butler's Matt Howard got the rebound, was fouled by Pitt's Nasir Robinson and then hit the winning free throws to end Pitt's championship dreams.
"It definitely changed the history of Pitt basketball, with that one shot," Brown told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We probably do win the national championship or make a Final Four that year."
Brown's legacy as a Panther shouldn't be boiled down to that one missed free throw. He spent five years in Oakland and was the third-leading scorer on that 2011 Pitt squad that went 28-6 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That heartbreak doesn't erase some of Brown's favorite memories as a Panther, like winning the Big East tournament his freshman year in Madison Square Garden with his family in attendance.
"I had a great time. I enjoyed it," he said of his Pitt days. "We won a lot and I made a lot of friendships and bonds that will never be broken over time through my tenure at Pitt with my teammates and friends."
After graduation, Brown attempted to break into the NBA landscape. Unfortunately, the end of his college career coincided with the NBA lockout of 2011, forcing him to begin his professional basketball career in Germany.
He eventually was given a shot with the Boston Celtics — the organization that currently employs Brad Wanamaker, his former teammate — before landing in the G-League and eventually going to play ball in Puerto Rico.
That was just his first year out of college. Since then, he has played pro basketball overseas in those two countries plus Israel, Turkey, Italy and the Dominican Republic. He currently suits up for Israel's Maccabi Ra'anana club.
"I've gotten to travel the world and go to a number of countries, played in top leagues against some of the best competition over here," Brown said. "So I have no complaints."
He said that the best food he has encountered in his travels has been in Turkey and Israel, though he also enjoyed the free meals he got once a day in Italy — "fresh pasta, fresh everything," as Brown put it. He was not a fan of German food, but you can't win them all.
The international life has treated Brown well enough that he has no real NBA aspirations anymore, though he's also not willing to shut the door on that possibility entirely.
"At this point, not really," he said of the likelihood of him making the big league. "I still definitely think I could play in the NBA. But at this point, it is what it is. Unless I have a big season, I don't see anything that could bring me back to the NBA. I'm content with that."
Brown is clearly doing just fine, having played consistent pro ball for the last decade. He has faced some adversity, like a lack of NBA interest and tearing both his ACL and meniscus two years ago, but he's forged ahead.
Of course, he's still keeping an eye on his Panthers. And he thinks that something special is brewing in Oakland.
"I've been around Jeff Capel and the program and the guys a number of times, and I get the feeling that in the coming years that this program is going to be the same one in the ACC that we were in the Big East," Brown said.
"I still wear my colors and rep my team, and so I'm hoping we'll come back and be the team we once were."
— Joshua Axelrod