Sports editor Trent Leonard looks at predictive hits and misses

After three years at Pitt News – one year as a sports journalist and two years as a sports editor – my term of office came to an end.

By working here I have come into contact with incredible friends and I have been able to share the inspiring, tragic and frankly crazy stories of other people.

I was talking about the Pitt-basketball team, which didn’t win the CCA game, and the Pitt-volleyball team, which didn’t lose a single game. I have written about various sports, from football, swimming and sailing to gymnastics, wrestling and Muay Tai. Besides serious reporting, there was also nonsense like watching Brad Pitt’s best sports roles or crying when Pitt Athletics changed the layout of its website.

The most remarkable thing about sports media is that, like the media they report on, you collect a series of victories and defeats over time. Sometimes this can be achieved by making a bold prediction or by looking at other markets from a new perspective. Not the others.

In general, I would like to believe that my career here has been full of victories – a multitude of stories, quality reporting, witty words and really thorough analysis.

But when I look at the 200 or so articles I’ve written in the last three years, I see that I’ve also suffered a loss. These rare errors occurred in the form of incorrect predictions, when the analysis turned out to be useless due to unforeseen circumstances at the time.

For your pleasure of reading, I will therefore read you an overview of the best and worst of my earlier photos, on which we can now look back and judge with a 20/20 view.


I was the main contributor to the victories of Pitts Men’s Basketball in the infamous season 2017-2018, in which the team played a total of 8-24 and ACC 0-18. After the start of the conference program there was only a small change in the overall theme of each game – Panthers lost, Panthers died, Panthers almost won… …but they lost.

I sympathized with this team. I was even ashamed – dare I say it – of coach Kevin Stallings, who was often crushed by his own fans at every game. I thought some of the reasons for the Panthers’ lack of success were beyond his control – like star center Ryan Luther, who suffered a seasonal injury in the game ten – and that he just needed a season or two to get his boys into his system before people could pass judgment.

The 23rd. In January 2018, when Pitt lost seven times at CCA, I wrote an article with my colleague Colin Martin about counterpoint on glasses. He believed that Stollings should be preserved, while I, who feels the need to play the devil’s advocate and defend Stollings’ almost non-existent honor, said that Pitt should keep him.

…with a season and a half of poor quality at Pitt, people are asking Stallings to lose his job – which is absolutely ridiculous – I wrote.

Let’s just be grateful that Pitt Athletic’s athletic director, Heather Lake, didn’t stumble over my article and didn’t yield to my words of persuasion.

Stollings was rightly fired at the end of the season after playing a total of 4-32 for two seasons with the CCA in Pitt. It was a message from Lyke that failure would no longer be tolerated. This was the right step at the time, and it was reinforced when the Panthers brought in Duke Jeff Kapel’s old Warrant Officer to succeed him.

Capel put the Panther back on the path to relevance in the first two seasons at the top, so no one – myself included – regretted the days when Stallings was still shouting at fans on the other side and implementing smart plans to avoid NCAA sanctions.

Shortly after Stallings was relieved of his coaching duties, I talked to some of the newcomers from Pitt about how they dealt with the challenges and what they had planned for the future. My article naïvely sketched a picture in which the major Pitt-manufacturers stayed close to each other despite the departure of the person who hired them, and continued on to the next main trainer without any problems.

We know what talents each of us has and what opportunities the future holds, according to point guard Markus Carr.

We know our team is young, but we’ve seen the future, which we can have here at Pitt if we all stay together, according to garden friend Parker Stewart.

The room hasn’t aged very well.

Four days later, on the 16th. In March, seven players, including Carr and Stuart, asked to be removed from the program. They moved to Minnesota or UT Martin respectively, which makes my article about their future in Pitt completely meaningless.

Next season the Kapel Panthers performed much better in their first 17 games. Led by goaltenders Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, the score was 12-5 and the ACC 2-2. After another devastating victory over Florida’s No. 11, I wrote that Pitt’s reconstruction was ahead of schedule and that the team seemed prepared for the end of the season in conference games around 500.

This is only the beginning, but there is reason to believe that the success of Pitt is not a coincidence and that the team should be competitive throughout the season, I wrote.

Pitt’s success was an accident. And the Panthers were far from competitive for the rest of the season and went into a slip-up with 2:14. Opponents have found ways to neutralize their bottom end duo, especially McGowens, which was incomprehensible at a time when he averaged 21.8 points per CCA game.

Oh, and last season, I publicly begged Capel to use the Terrell Brown Center as the fifth venue. I have told you that in today’s basketball landscape there are tall people who can spread the floor, and that Brown is better suited to a role outside the arch – where he has shown amazing sensitivity in limited attempts – than in painting, where he has been largely ineffective. It was all very scientific and very wise, and I fucking support it!

But apparently Capel, like Luke, doesn’t read the Pitt News because he didn’t follow my advice. Brown was still used as the traditional big man, although production around the band and on the shelves was limited. He hasn’t scored 3 points in any of Pitt’s last 11 games, so I think I’m going to consider my request to change a sniper role at the end of the season a failure.

My predictable failures weren’t limited to Pitt’s basketball. A moment I did at Pitt at the beginning of the 2018 football season now seems particularly silly.

The Panthers started the season impressively and beat Albany 33-7 in their home opener. Of course, victory came as a blow to a weak opponent on FCS, but I was inspired by the schematic creativity I saw in attack coordinator Mark Whipple. He presented a balanced West Coast style in which seven different Panthers set a record for at least two carries and allowed quarterback Kenny Pickett to effectively pass 16 of 22 in 154 yards and two touchdowns.

That’s why I wrote an article about how I think Watson’s system will succeed and make Pickett flourish as a passer-by, even though the Panthers are playing in a tougher league.

If Saturday’s game is an indication of what to expect from an attack, Pitt could be on its way back to its 2016 form when the Panthers average 40.9 points per game, the second highest ranking in the CCA, I wrote.

Well, it certainly wasn’t. Despite this blinding and reckless attack, Pitt was often embarrassed by his inability to throw the ball, apparently due to Watson’s lack of creativity in passing. The Panthers finished the game as 123rd out of 130 FBS teams averaging 139.7 yards per game, and it looks like they won’t score if the future NFL fullback – Quadri Ollison or Darrin Hall – doesn’t interfere with the escape route. After the season, Watson was fired in favor of the more sympathetic host Mark Whipple.

Photo courtesy of Trent Leonard.

corresponds to

We used a staff column called Weekly Pick ’em, in which the sports staff will predict the number of points for the various matches in the coming week. The 26th. In October 2018 we released a publication that gives an overview of the best games of the NFL weekend.

Our TPN employees are there to give our patented predictions, which are 100% guaranteed, I wrote sarcastically in the main paragraph.

This sentence was more prophetic than sarcastic when I noticed the exact Steelers-Brows score, 33-18. The brutal performance of former Panther James Conner helped Pittsburgh improve its score, and the missed conversion of two points in the final touchdown in Cleveland saved the result I expected.

In last year’s soccer season at Pitt, I predicted that the Panthers would finally end their tortuous series of games in North Carolina and beat Tar Heels against Heinz in an exciting game. I said Pitt would fire Sam Howell’s quarterback at least five times, even if he made a few long touchdown passes. I also said that Pitt would do its usual distribution of fines and the screw of the brand special team (which, in fact, not the crystal ball because it became the same for the course).

The Panthers shot Howell exactly five times when he made two touchdowns of 34 and 21 meters. Pitt converted a double-digit penalty and striker Alex Kessman missed 26 yards. If UNC-kicker Noah Ruggles had admitted a 32-yard goal attempt at the end of the line, the score of 27:24 would have been 26:23 in my opinion.

Anyway, it was a show of the game that ended with Pitt finally lifting the Carolina curse in overtime, 34-27.

Last season, I pleaded for Pitt to become the Coastal CCA champion because there are four games left in the regular season. With the conference record of 3-1 at the time, I came up with the most likely scenario for a 6-2 victory, the ideal end for the previous league champions.

Ideally, the Panthers would eliminate two teams with a loss directly above them in the standings – Virginia and Virginia Tech – in the next two games, split the two losses and create a tiebreak on both. Then, after beating Wake Forest – a safe assumption – the Panthers could lose Miami in the season finale, provided Miami suffers another deadly CCA loss in three games, probably on Virginia Tech – and still emerge as champions of the shoreline, I wrote.

It’s, uh… Almost certainly. Pitt scored those decisive victories over Virginia and Virginia Tech before embarking on a journey to defeat Wake Forest and win the coastal title for the first time since his arrival at CCNR in 2013. The only thing that didn’t work out as planned was that Miami actually left Virginia Tech (38-14) but lost both games to rivals Georgia Tech and Duke, although the Hurricanes still beat Pitt in the season finale.

One of the predictions I’ve made is both right and very wrong. Last season I ran the Pitt football club for three months and gave a brief description of each game and whether I thought the Panthers would win or lose. I thought they’d win seven games and lose five, no matter what they did.

As far as the actual figures are concerned, I’ve often missed a number. The first four games were very chaotic – I said Pitt was going to beat Penn State and Virginia, but he was going to lose UCF and get angry at Ohio. Exactly the opposite happened when Pitt took over Ohio and pissed off the UCF, but ran into Virginia and Penn. Apart from that 4-0 start I was 6-2 in other bricks, but I’m not sure if that was enough to make up for the lack of foresight at the start.

Anyway, that’s the beauty of this industry. You can build your career without stopping what you’ve achieved by identifying sports trends for your competitors and providing readers with thoughtful and accurate information. Or you can create excitement by playing the role of a villain, always making bold, contradictory and often wrong predictions (in your eyes, Skip Bayless).

As far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to start a new list with sample analyses and failed predictions for the sports section of another newspaper – as soon as there are new sports to cover.

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