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January 9, 2007

Pitt plays at DePaul tomorrow night. DePaul was where Maggie Dixon made a name for herself as an assistant coach on the women’s team. She also left a lasting impression there.

Her death stunned the basketball community, particularly at DePaul. Maggie’s legacy remains everywhere at the school where she served as an assistant coach from 2001-05.

This season, Bruno’s players are wearing a patch on their jerseys displaying the names “Maggie” and “Ray,” honoring both Dixon and iconic DePaul men’s basketball coach Ray Meyer, who died March 17.

The women’s basketball office suites are now named for Maggie. Inside, a floor-to-ceiling mural displaying photographs of Maggie covers a wall in the film room.

At the center of the mural is a photo of Maggie raising a finger in triumph after Army won the Patriot League championship game. Another shot shows Maggie consulting Bruno during a DePaul game.

“I miss her every day,” Bruno said. “Every day we all hurt because as much as we are working to make certain her legacy lives on forever, it doesn’t bring her back.”

DePaul will hold a memorial for Maggie in April, on the anniversary of her passing. The school also has plans to endow a scholarship in Maggie’s name.

Doug Bruno recalls seeing Jamie and Maggie Dixon together on an interesting night in Chicago.

Bruno had offered his NLCS tickets to Maggie Dixon, his lead assistant coach. Dixon’s big brother Jamie, the men’s basketball coach at Pittsburgh, was in Chicago for a coaches’ meeting, so she took him to the game.

“She picked me up and said, ‘We’re going,’æ” Jamie recalled Monday night. “It was the playoff game, the Bartman game.”

They took the “el” to Wrigley Field and watched the painful loss. Afterward, they met Bruno at Bernie’s and the Cubby Bear.

“It was an interesting evening, to say the least, an evening that goes down in infamy in Chicago, I guess,” Jamie said. “I was a Cub fan that night.”

Bruno was feeling low until he spotted the Dixons across the room.

“Just seeing Maggie and Jamie together, with Jamie able to let his hair down, that was just a special night for me,” Bruno recalled. “To see them interacting so naturally, you forget for a moment that it’s Jamie Dixon, Pitt coach, and it’s Maggie Dixon, DePaul coach.”

You can bet the topic will come up in the ESPN2 telecast with Dave O’Brien and Rick Majerus (can’t they send Erin Andrews down from the OSU-Wisconsin game just to balance out Majerus — so to speak). The game notes (PDF)

Benjamin’s Time Grows

Filed under: Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 8:46 pm

I saw in the comments reference to it. I wanted to get to it sooner, but I was a little worn out after drink-live-blogging the BCS last night. Plus Louisville was hiring a new coach; Michael Bush leaving the Cardinals to go pro; and Matt Simms decommitting from L-ville all needed commenting. A Nelson Munz “Hah-hah!” just didn’t seem sufficient.

Anyhow, the story on Keith Benjamin is excellent. Not just for giving deserved love to the team’s sparkplug, but because of how well it demonstrates great maturity from Benjamin. There have been flashes this season — not complaining about his role; the support for Gilbert Brown — but I admit to wondering how he was really feeling.

“The more I embrace this role the better we play,” Benjamin said. “I’m starting to see my role for what it’s worth. I definitely like my role. This is a deep team. You don’t get anywhere being selfish.

“I don’t want to be that guy who drops off. If somebody in the starting five or one of the other reserves isn’t getting the job done, I want to be the guy who always gets the job done.

“I just want to do what I can when I get out there and make an impact every time I step on the court. If there is a shot to be made or a stop to get, I’ll do my best to get it while I’m out there.”

Benjamin’s shot is so much better than last year. Especially compared to last year in the non-con, when he was on the verge of playing himself out of the rotation. Seeing him grow into a man and a player almost makes me think there’s something to the whole college thing and coaches teaching life lessons or something like that.

ESPN: Coming to a Campus Near You

Filed under: Basketball,Media,TV — Dennis @ 3:39 pm

As previously and briefly mentioned, ESPN College Basketball Gameday will be at the Petersen Events Center for their weekly show on Saturday. It’s going to be a hell of a day down at the Pete and the athletic department website came out with a little more information today.

The University of Pittsburgh will host the popular ESPN College Basketball GameDay television show at the Petersen Events Center this Saturday, Jan. 13 prior to the Pitt-Georgetown men’s basketball game.

ESPN College Basketball GameDay activities begin at 11 a.m. with the live TV show originating from the Petersen Events Center floor. Admission is free and open to the public.

Sounds like a few Pitt related things will be shown as per ESPN’s focus; make them think they care about your team when, in reality, they don’t.

Segments of the show will include a live interview with Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon, a feature on Pitt senior center Aaron Gray, a live on-court demonstration by Bilas and a preview of the day’s top college basketball games along with predictions from Davis, Bilas and Phelps.

Jay Bilas? Live on court demo? Sweeeeeeet.

Following the broadcast will be the fifth annual “Pack the Pete” for the women’s game. Starting at 9:00 later that night, the men’s team tips off against Georgetown.

Last time I went to an ESPN show at Pitt, the football team ended up getting smacked around by Notre Dame. Not sure if I should risk a hoops victory for my own enjoyment.

Whither Gray

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Uncategorized — Chas @ 10:08 am

Mike DeCourcy at the Sporting News is a bit concerned.

Defenses have been collapsing on Gray to make it difficult for the Panthers to get him the ball, so production is not as much an issue as efficiency. During that stretch, he is only 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) from the field — after he shot 64 percent over the first dozen games. Anyone who watched Gray in the Panthers’ win over Syracuse had to notice he looked more lethargic than frustrated.

Anyone expecting Coach Dixon to express any concern? Me either.

“I feel very good where he’s at,” Dixon said. “If we didn’t have the margin of the victory that we’ve had, I would be a little bit more concerned.”

The part that concerns me offensively is the misses. He doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to get at the basket. There is some  passiveness from Gray right now. Maybe it’s because Pitt is winning, and he has faith in his teammates making the shots. Maybe it’s because defenses are forcing him to expend too much energy on defense by bringing him out so far from the baskets. It does make me nervous about when he will start to turn it on.

One More Chance

Filed under: Bowls,Football,NFL,Players — Chas @ 7:56 am

To see H.B. Blades and Tyler Palko wearing Pitt helmets. The Under Armour Senior Bowl.

Among the Big East players who have accepted invitations to the Jan. 27 game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium are quarterback Tyler Palko and linebacker H.B. Blades of Pittsburgh, defensive back Tanard Jackson of Syracuse, and a trio of West Virginia Mountaineers — linebacker Boo McLee, wide receiver Brandon Myles and 2006 Rimington Award winner center Dan Mozes.

Previously, two members of Louisville’s Big East champs — defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who will be the youngest player in Senior Bowl history at age 19, and running back Kolby Smith; and a pair of stars from Rutgers — running back Brian Leonard and tight end Clark Harris, were also named to the 2007 roster.

Looks like most of the BE players will be “coached” by Tampa Bay HC Jon Gruden. Can you believe the NFL managed to snag the broadcast rights to this gem?

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