Great Teams Start with Investments Off the Court

Anthony Zanetta (A&S ’14) and Nick Zanetta (CBA ’18)
The Pitt bench reacts during the win over Central Arkansas November 15, 2018. 

When David Emanuel (ENGR ’89) was a student at Pitt in the late ‘80s, he loved to cheer on his Panthers at Fitzgerald Field House. Future NBA players Charles Smith and Jerome Lane formed the heart of a team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation. Smith and Lane did not do it on their own. They came to Pitt in 1984 as part of what was deemed to be the nation’s best recruiting class.

Since the ‘80s, the Pitt Basketball program has had its ups and downs, but David has never wavered in his support as a fan or as a donor.

“I get a lot of enjoyment out of the athletic department and I like the way the department is headed right now with the leadership and the new men’s and women’s basketball coaches,” David said. “I see some big things underway and I want to be part of making them happen.”

Pitt Junior, Jasmine Whitney, brings the ball up court against University of Central Florida
Pitt Junior, Jasmine Whitney, brings the ball up court against the University of Central Florida.

David has made a multi-year commitment to support the recently relaunched Pitt Basketball Championship Fund, which provides unrestricted financial support to the men’s and women’s programs.

“The contributions provided through the Basketball Championship Fund are critical because they provide an immediate impact for our student-athletes,” University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Heather Lyke said. “These donations improve the spaces where our student athletes live and learn every day such as locker rooms, athletic training rooms, the film room, and the practice gymnasium.”

Stanley Marks (A&S ’69, MED ’73)—the UPMC oncologist who might be best known as the doctor who treated former Pitt running back and current Pittsburgh Steeler James Conner—and his wife Nikol have put their support behind the Pitt Championship Basketball Fund and the vision of the program. The couple’s gift creates the Dr. Stanley M. and Nikol Marks Men’s Basketball Nutrition Area in the Petersen Events Center on campus.

Proper nutrition is key to every phase of a student-athlete’s life, and the science has moved far beyond the carb- and meat-heavy locker room training tables of the past. Additionally, the NCAA recently loosened dining rules, which allows Pitt Athletics more latitude in caring for its students.

Pitt Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jeff Capel with Athletic Director Heather Lyke.
Pitt Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jeff Capel with Athletic Director Heather Lyke.

The AD says the facility enhancements are a crucial part of the University’s efforts to recruit and compete effectively in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which she calls “the most competitive conference in the country.” She, along with new Men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel and Women’s coach Lance White, have a vision for what they need to attract and support the best players in the country.

Long-time University donor Jay Cleveland believes in that vision and has made the Pitt Basketball Championship Fund part of his annual giving to the University.

“I love what Heather is doing. I love what Coach Capel has brought to the table so far, not just with the basketball program but with all of Athletics,” Jay said. “We’re here to facilitate their ability to get good players.”

Pitt Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lance White with Athletic Director Heather Lyke
Pitt Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lance White with Athletic Director Heather Lyke.

Jay, who does not have a degree from Pitt but fell in love with the school and the program after moving to Pittsburgh in 2006, says the student-athletes being recruited know they have a great education to look forward to if they choose Pitt. They also want to know they will be training in some of the best facilities in the conference.

“I think the coaching leadership has some great ideas from a facilities stand point and we want to be as supportive as possible to make that happen,” he said. “Every dollar matters. It really does. It’s not just the large gifts, it’s the smaller ones too that make a difference for helping Heather reshape Athletics at Pitt and she is well on her way to doing that.”

Jay says he is in it for the long haul and sees this season as a stepping-stone to great things as the new coaches begin to put together recruiting classes as strong as the class of 1984.

“You are recruiting against the best of the best: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse. Those schools put a lot of thought into their facilities and their athletes’ well-being. That’s what attracts today’s student athletes. We need to do the same and our gifts are enabling Pitt.”

Follow this link to read more stories from this issue of the Chancellor's Circle Update.