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February 15, 2007

Remember last spring when Pitt had to replace a slew of assistant coaches? Turns out Dan Hurley was actually one of Pitt’s first choices.

The program Hurley took over six years ago has two teams now, the dominant high school team and a prep team with post-graduate players. Practices are a dizzying showcase of talent, with 22 players, with Division 1 schools recruiting most of them … and some of them recruiting him, too.

Pittsburgh came calling in the spring, with a chance to become a top assistant at one of the hottest programs in the East. He thought about it, but then remembered his days at Rutgers, returning home from recruiting trips and realizing his young son didn’t recognize him.

“I love seeing my family. I love seeing my mom and dad. It sounds corny, but I’ve settled into a lifestyle that means a lot to me,” Hurley said. “To be as good a coach as my dad is next to impossible. I’ll be able to live with that.”

He is the head coach at St. Benedict Prep, the #1 HS program according to USA Today.

It doesn’t say that Hurley was offered the job that Mike Rice, Jr. now holds. It was a chance at the job. From the way I’m reading it, Pitt did come calling to see what his interest was, but it would not have appeared to have gotten past the gaging interest stage. Good to know, though, that Pitt was looking at many possibilities.

Rule 3-2-5-e is one you’ve heard of but it’s almost gone after one year. It’s the one that was used by Wisconsin to make JoePa mad. The one that almost no fan, player, or coach liked. The one that said the clock starts on the ref’s whistle, not the snap on a change of possession. On kickoffs, the clock started once the kicker booted it.

Now a committee who finally used their brains decided it might be time to rework that.

“The changes we made last year, overall, did not have a positive effect on college football at all levels,” said Michael Clark, chair of the committee and head coach at Bridgewater (Virginia) College. “Our charge is to protect the game and do what is best for college football.”

The main rules will be returned to their norm from 2005 however the “new and improved” rules are things like this.

Encourage coaches, officials, game management personnel, media partners to manage the game in a more efficient manner.

Woo, I’m down for that.

And as I mentioned that Carl Krauser was missed as a leader, look at who pumps us up before games now: Austin Wallace! Actually, it says that Marcus Bowman did the same job last year, but still, you need someone who actually plays to keep a team pumped up. A red shirt sitting on the end of the bench during the game does not seem like the best leader to have.

Levance, next year you’ll be a junior. Graves, Gray and Kendall will be gone. Please, please, please step up on the court and lead this team; this means both vocally and with your actions. I don’t care if you’re not the one in the middle of the pregame circle but do it when it matters.

I missed this on Monday, and that was probably for the best, but Gray got some love at SI.com.

The most attention Pitt 7-footer Aaron Gray gets comes from opposing coaches. So why isn’t the Big East preseason Player of the Year, who averages 15 points and 10 rebounds, getting the attention of other centers like, say, Greg Oden? Gray’s game may not be aesthetically pleasing, but there’s no denying he’s consistent. And so much of what he does doesn’t translate to the stat sheet. His drawing of double teams allows Ronald Ramon, Levance Fields, Antonio Graves and Sam Young to get open for threes and he gives the Panthers unparalleled experience in the paint. The knock against Gray is he can’t hit free throws (58.5 percent on the season) and he hasn’t improved to the level many expected when he turned down NBA riches to return to Pittsburgh for one final season. But on Saturday against Providence he showed the heady and dependable play that makes him so dangerous. With the Panthers trailing, Gray picked up his third foul with 16:01 to play, but coach Jamie Dixon kept Gray in the game. Gray responded with one of his most effective halves of the season. He played all but three minutes and scored 13 of his 22 points to put Pitt ahead before leaving after a hard fall with 2:37 remaining. The problem with Gray is everyone expects more and his dependable play has gone underappreciated.

Interesting observation about Dixon taking Gray out of the game with foul trouble.

Q: How much is a star player actually worth to his team?

A: To be revealed later this week. But based on the data I have, I found it interesting when Jamie Dixon went to the coaches playbook and pulled Aaron Gray after he picked up his 4th foul against Louisville last night. Sure, Pitt was down by 15 to Louisville, and the game was slipping away anyway. But there was just over 14 minutes remaining, and at that moment, Jamie Dixon conceded a loss.

Mixed feelings. I get what Pomeroy is saying. It was a conservative, safe move. But since Pitt needed him to get to the point where he would matter, there was just as much support to leave him in the game.

This is about as close as Jamie Dixon has ever come to questioning his players performance publicly.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said he still doesn’t understand why his team acted as if they hadn’t seen a zone before when Louisville zoned the Panthers in beating them Monday night at the Petersen Center. Pitt played well against Syracuse’s zone but was befuddled by Louisville. As expected, Dixon said when Derrick Caracter plays well for Louisville that changes their dynamic inside because of his ability to take away some attention from David Padgett.

I know this has been hashed, and re-hashed, but it is a good question. Maybe it was the higher level of athleticism, but Pitt really struggled to create the spacing on the court. Zones haven’t really been a big problem most of the year for Pitt.

Seth Davis at SI.com had a listing of seeds and still had Pitt as a #2 seed.

Elsewhere, I might have bumped Pitt down to a No. 3 after getting shellacked at home by a surging Louisville squad, but the teams on my three line still haven’t done enough to move up. (Marquette, which won at Pitt, would have been an easy choice if it hasn’t lost badly at Georgetown.)

And that was before Tuesday night’s activities. Not to mention on Wednesday with Marquette losing to DePaul.

For whatever it’s worth (and it is of questionable value), Dick Vitale lists some of the future great coaches of college basketball and includes Jamie Dixon in the list along with John Thompson III, Tony Bennett, Sean Sutton and Billy Gillispie.

Dixon, in his own style, has created something special with his players. His Panthers understand how to play on both ends. The only gap on the résumé is the team’s inability to get past the Sweet 16.

Something tells me this squad is ready to make a serious run this year. Pitt has a terrific combination in Levance Fields, a real creator, and the big guy in the middle in 7-foot Aaron Gray. I suspect this team will bring a smile to the Pitt cheering section known as the “Oakland Zoo.”

That would be nice.

Now when WVU comes to the Pete, no gay slurs. Get creative with the insults, but keep it classy.
I have to admit, that I was wondering what exactly the Hoopies were screaming at Aaron Gray. No one wanted to actually say it. I suppose I was expecting something relating a little more to Deliverance. You know, something about making him squeal like a pig or such. Nope not even that original apparently.

On Wednesday night, while the Mountaineers were losing to Pitt, students chanted ”Gray’s a faggot” at Aaron Gray.

Yeah, that’s effective.

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