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May 11, 2008

Andy Katz of ESPN.com has made no secret in the past that he is on good terms with Coach Jamie Dixon. That sure helps in doing a story like this that has been on the front page of ESPN.com’s college basketball page all weekend.

The coaching carousel tried to scoop up Dixon yet again this spring. And, for the third year in a row, Dixon turned down all the suitors. Stanford, Cal, Oklahoma State, LSU, Arizona State, Indiana and Arkansas have all tried to get Dixon interested when they’ve had recent openings. But he won’t bite.

“He is so loyal to us and if there are three to five suitors every year, that would not surprise me at all,” Nordenberg said. “He doesn’t dangle that in front of us and doesn’t advertise it or try to take advantage of it.”

“Every time his name circulates with a job, Jamie shuts things down fast,” said athletic director Steve Pederson, back for his second stint as AD.

The Arizona State job was the only one that reached anxiety levels. I’d say there were a couple reasons for that. First, it was the first time he had been so actively pursued by another school. The year before the Pitt team really faded in the back end and there was a lot of sniping about Dixon’s performance. Finally, the difference in salaries at that point was a big difference that had to make anyone listen.

After that, it has been quiet or quickly rejected without much dancing. As a fan I appreciate that. As a blogger looking for material to write in the off-season, it’s damn frustrating. Mindless speculation of will he-won’t he and possible replacements can fill weeks of blogging if drawn out correctly. But no, that keeps being denied to me.

And still Dixon is doing it at a place where elite players in the area are virtually nonexistent. So with the help of his assistants from former aide Barry Rohrssen (now the head coach at Manhattan) to current assistant Orlando Antigua, he continues to make Pitt a familiar name in New York City. The Panthers can call Madison Square Garden their home away from home, too, going 23-8 in the building since 2000, which is better than what UConn, Syracuse and St. John’s can boast.

“He put Pittsburgh in a position where it’s an upper division team in the Big East,” said Florida associate head coach Larry Shyatt, a former assistant in the Big East at Providence under Rick Barnes and a former head coach at Wyoming and Clemson. “That’s the way it’s thought of outside and in the Big East. That’s the best compliment I can give.”

And now, Pitt has made inroads into Maryland and Philly.

I know that feelings are mixed on Dixon. I do understand that. I am one of those in his corner.

A big reason why is that I feel he has done a lot to build Pitt’s program overall. Not just the winning — which is huge. It’s the effort in helping to support the summer league in Pittsburgh. Something that never existed. Giving the players a chance to stay in the ‘Burgh over the summer to play together and against each other. To be able to keep improving, hit the weight room with direct supervision and guidance, and to take classes to stay up on the academics.

All of that is vital to making Pitt a basketball program a growing and strengthening entity. And it pays off in that the former players in recent vintage are still eager to be around the city and the program. We also see more connection with past players renewing ties to the school. Re-connecting and supporting.

The summer program also gives the more talented high school kids other options on playing and connecting with present Pitt players. Western PA will never become a hotbead of basketball talent, but the more connections made into the area can only encourage and make sure that kids feel some local ties and desire to play there one day. It’s something that Pitt has still fought to overcome.

All of that has happened with Dixon here.





unfortunately, rumor is the summer league may be in jeopardy this year

Comment by Jamie H 05.11.08 @ 12:24 pm

Aside for the Diggs situation, I think Dixon has been a model head coach. He’s been successful and run a clean program while turning down overtures from other programs in the offseason.
We’ll see how long that lasts, though, if Tim Floyd of USC is canned as a result of the latest O.J. Mayo dust-up:

link to sports.espn.go.com

If available, I wonder if Dixon would jump at the USC position?

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.11.08 @ 3:12 pm

Dave:

You obviously didn’t read the article.

Comment by Jared 05.11.08 @ 3:23 pm

Are people still harping on the Diggs thing? Sheesh. Yeah…that MUST have been Dixon’s fault…

Comment by Jeff 05.11.08 @ 4:56 pm

Jared – I did read the article. Did you? People are comparing the situation at USC with Bush and Mayo the SMU Death Penalty years. USC won’t fire Carroll because of the championships. Floyd doesn’t have that resume.
Jeff – I wasn’t “harping” on the Diggs situation. Just pointing out something that irked me. But if you want to parse and cherry-pick comments, be my guest.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.11.08 @ 9:00 pm

I only parse and cherry pick dumb comments. But thanks for your approval.

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 7:16 am

The article clearly states that Dixon isn’t interested in leaving. He has turned down everyone else. What makes you think he would be interested in going to a program that is not an elite program and could be facing sanctions. That makes no sense. He would be going to a worse situation.

Comment by Jared 05.12.08 @ 8:24 am

Plus, the article, plus any article I have ever read, has said that Jamie is a stand up guy. Not to mention, anyone I’ve ever spoken to who has met him has said the same thing. To parse and cherry pick random events like the Diggs situation just to try and sully Dixon’s reputation, it doesn’t work for me. If I had to pick who I trust in that situation, I’d say I’d go with Dixon, not Diggs.

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 8:49 am

Why would Dixon leave for USC, a program under complete investigation by the NCAA and the FBI. You’re insane Dave. Jamie wouldn’t touch that program with a 50 foot pole right now.

Comment by Jamie H 05.12.08 @ 8:58 am

Wow. The level of discourse here has bottomed out. Resorting to ad hominem attacks — really? Dumb? Insane?
Who honestly thinks that the USC athletic program is not “elite?” Do you not remember Dixon’s West Coast ties? Furthermore, Katz wrote an article about how Dixon hasn’t left. Not an article about how he will never leave.
Oh, and from the Katz article…
“Dixon naturally discusses other gigs — just like countless other coaches do — in the offseason, but as much as he has tried to see where he would fit elsewhere, he can’t come up with an easy answer.”
Are you sure that quote is iron-clad guarantee that he’ll never leave Pitt? I certainly don’t think he’ll leave Pitt before the completion of the ’08-’09 season. Beyond that, however, is a crap shoot.
Furthermore, while the USC programs are being heavily scrutinized, they haven’t been found guilty of any major infractions yet. Let’s say the USC job opened up, and there were no strings attached, can anyone honestly say that Dixon wouldn’t be interested?
For the record, I have never attempted to “sully Dixon’s reputation.” I support him when he does things correctly — which is the vast majority of the time. I voice my opinion when I think he does something sketchy — like the Diggs move. I do not believe in blind faith.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.12.08 @ 9:52 am

Dave – you still never defined what exactly was sketchy about the Diggs situation. You have no facts, other than Diggs was asked to leave, and what Diggs said (and of course, everything Diggs said MUST be true right?). You assuming that something sketchy happened is just your assumption, not fact.

Try being a little more positive and perhaps things won’t bottom out. It’s not our job to pull you out of the gutter.

Not having blind faith and jumping to negative conclusions are two different things. Jamie is a man, just like the rest of us. I am certain he isn’t perfect. But you don’t need to make stuff up just to suit your negative bent.

Why couldn’t you just take the nice, positive article for what it is and not be such a doom and gloomer. It’s like going to a very nice wedding and saying one of the flowers was wilted and the steak was a little salty. If you only see negative stuff, you will of course reap that kind of reaction as you saw here.

Instead of lashing out at multiple people, maybe try some introspection. I find in life when multiple people are saying you fouled up, it is at least a possibility.

I won’t respond to your nonsense any more, you’re wasting this guy’s server space…

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 10:01 am

“… you still never defined what exactly was sketchy about the Diggs situation.”

Actually, I did and I didn’t make anything up. All the facts are on the table. But I’ll I won’t dredge them up here so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities.

link to pittblather.com

BTW – I didn’t lash out at anybody. I just called people out for poor behavior and faulty logic — which you continued to display in your most recent post. If you find that to be nonsense, then your efforts to refrain from further comment will be of great benefit to this community.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.12.08 @ 10:19 am

I personally don’t understand all this ‘Westcoast ties’ stuff. I know he was born there. But his kids were born in Pittsburgh, I believe, and his parents live on the East Coast. Just because he was born there doesn’t mean he is dying to go back. I don’t know this for certain though.

Comment by Jared 05.12.08 @ 10:20 am

You still haven’t Dave. Tell me one thing that was sketchy, just one, that is based on fact that didn’t come from what Diggs said. There are no facts on any table. Please feel free to enlighten us.

I see Dave that you really want to win. OK, I’ll let you. Yes Dave, Dixon will go to USC, USC won’t be under investigation, yes, Dixon broke all sorts of ethical and legal rules in the Diggs situation, yes you are very smart, you speak Latin.

Feel better?

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 10:27 am

Jared05 – Dixon was born in Hollywood and never had a job east of Flagstaff prior to coming to Pitt. I believe his parents and sister are actually still in LA or thereabouts. I’ve read that he has a close relationship with Jerry Pimm at UCSB and obviously Howland at UCLA. Those are the ties that I refer to. Admittedly, Dixon seems to have a glowing opinion of Pittsburgh. But I wouldn’t expect him to publicly express anything to the contrary.
Jeff – I’m not trying to win anything. I just want to express my opinion without being personally attacked. To clarify:
I don’t speak Latin, I do think the USC football and basketball programs will be under great scrutiny, I don’t think Dixon will go to USC (this year), I do think forcing Diggs out was unethical, and yes, I am in fact very smart.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.12.08 @ 11:03 am

And huble to boot. You still never said what was unethical about the Diggs situation, but as you were grabbing at straws anyway, I’ll let you have that one as well.

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 11:09 am

the Pitt basketball program is 10 times more elite than the USC basketball program. Bottom line.

This isn’t football, otherwise Jamie would be leaving us to coach at Penn State wouldn’t he? He coaches BASKETBALL

Comment by Jamie H 05.12.08 @ 12:18 pm

I agree that the Pitt program is currently in better shape than USC’s. Certainly not “10 times more elite,” but better nonetheless.
However, for coaches, it’s not about what’s a better fit now. It’s about potential upside. The potential for upside at USC in basketball — in the LA market — is greater than it is at Pitt. I don’t like to admit that, but it’s true.
A lot of dominoes would have to fall the right way for this situation to play out as such, but it is certainly a possibility.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.12.08 @ 12:41 pm

The west coast “ties” stuff is a smoke screen, just as it was for Howland. It makes a shady move seem more acceptable (Howland left Pitt less than one year after signing a six year contract extension…Did he not miss the west coast and his familiy as he was signing the extension?). Dixon will not leave Pitt for USC, that is a lateral move at best, but he will leave for another SoCal school as soon as that coach leaves for the NBA which I predict will happen in the next 2 or 3 years. By that time, Howland will have his NCAA Championship and the definition of his “dream job” will $hift to the profe$$ional arena…And it will not matter if that arena is in Los Angele$, or Dalla$, or Bo$ton!

Comment by HbgFrank 05.12.08 @ 12:47 pm

The reason the west coast ties are a smoke screen is because he said that he didn’t enjoy playing against Ben Howland, and he refuses to put UCLA on Pitt’s schedule because of that. If he hated it so much, why would he go and take a job that would pit him against Howland a minimum of 2 times a year.

Just because he was born on the west coast doesn’t mean he loves it there. Lots of people move to new homes that they like better than their roots. For example, my wife and I moved from Pittsburgh (me) and Morgantown (her) when we got married, and now live in Kansas. My wife loves it here and never talks about finding jobs back ‘home’. We love the life we have here. Our kids were born here. I have been offered jobs back in Pittsburgh and turned them down out of hand.

Sure, Dixon may leave at some point. But all this trumped up stuff about him just waiting for a job on the west coast… he says he doesn’t want to go back there. I see no reason to believe otherwise. When (if) he leaves for another job, we can blow the forums up about it then. Why are we doing it now?

I agree with HbgFrank about the smoke screen with Howland, though. How come a coach leaves for a new school and then says, “This is the only school I would have left that school for.” We really can’t prove him otherwise, but the fact remains, he left our school for theirs. And if another, better situation came along, I am sure it would be the ‘only’ school he would leave UCLA for.

I guess the reason I like Dixon is that he doesn’t give that Ben Howland, Roy Williams feeling of just trying to build a resume. If he does leave us some day, it won’t leave me feeling that he used and abused Pitt just to get a better job elsewhere. He has proven that, even if he doesn’t stay here forever, he is committed to this team and this city now. How many people ever felt Howland would really stay long term? He seemed like he had one foot out the door pretty much from his NIT appearance with Pitt.

Comment by The Prowler 05.12.08 @ 3:13 pm

I have also heard/read that Dixon and Howland don’t like to play each other, but I doubt that would keep him from taking a job in the same conference as his old boss/friend.
In 2006, Dixon used the Arizona State job opening that Herb Sendek eventually took to squeeze a raise out of the Pitt administration. He would have played UCLA twice a year with the Sun Devils.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.12.08 @ 3:42 pm

Sigh…
Dude, how you manage to keep adding up 2+2 and getting five is remarkable.

You dis Dixon, calling him unethical, without proof, and then say you didn’t impugn him.

You suggest he may go to USC, then you try to qualify by saying not until “some future date”, when your first post clearly implies sooner than later.

Then you say he used the Arizona St scenario to get himself a better deal, but use that as evidence that he would move.

Either you are in politics and you arw working on your flip flopping, or you aren’t as smart as you think you are…

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 4:00 pm

Jeff,
I never wrote any of the things you suggest above. I’ll clarify for you… again.
1) I think Dixon is a great coach, but I thought the way he handled the Diggs dismissal was bullshit. One blemish on an otherwise sterling record. I’m willing to offer praise when it’s due and dole out criticism if I feel it has been earned.
2) I never said Dixon would leave for USC immediately. The fact is, Floyd hasn’t even been dismissed yet. If you recall, I wrote:
“If available, I wonder if Dixon would jump at the USC position?”
Only when dismissed out of hand as impossible, did I attempt to illustrate that it’s entirely possible.
3) Dixon did use the Arizona State (and Missouri) job as leverage to get himself a better deal. That bluff only works if you’re willing to go. If Pitt felt he wasn’t going to go, they would have called his bluff and forced him to honor his existing contract.
Finally, my comments about being “very smart” were made in jest (although, I’m certainly no dolt). Sorry you didn’t pick up the sarcasm. It obviously doesn’t convey well on-line.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 05.12.08 @ 5:04 pm

OK, I guess we’re ok Dave (for whatever that’s worth). Sometimes the written media is sometimes difficult to decipher, at best, as you don’t get the mood or emotion of the “speaker”. We don’t really disagree on major points. I still don’t “know” if how the Diggs thing was handled well or not well. Dixon never gave the reasons for the dismissal. Which further may imply he is a stand up guy. For all we know (if we are allowed to jump to conclusions, or conversely go solely on Digg’s testimony) perhaps Diggs did something wrong, Dixon didn’t drag it out in public, and they just let him go. If you are asking us to go along with your what ifs – you have to at least grant Dixon that what-if.

A bluff can work without intent. But if it doesn’t work out, you may be stuck with the circumstances.

Otherwise, we are in total agreement. 🙂

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 5:13 pm

Two points about the Arizona St. opening…

1. He didn’t take it. So whatever his feelings towards it, it wasn’t alluring enough to him.
2. If he used it to get a raise at Pitt, that suggests that he wanted to be at Pitt, and was hoping Pitt would respond by keeping him with a nicer contract. Dixon is still underpaid as a head coach, especially given what he has done at Pitt. So being willing to bolt a few years ago if he was going to be stuck working for nothing here at Pitt is understandable. Pitt needs to step up the cash to keep that from being an issue. But if it was just about cash, he would already be gone. Ok St. was willing to pay big cash, and apparently so was TCU.

I also think it is a significant factor in accepting a job that you would be forced to play someone you don’t want to play. Roy Williams has said he will never schedule Kansas, and it seems like he intends to keep that word. Sometimes it can be hard playing against people you are emotionally involved with or attached to.

Don’t get me wrong in that I am not suggesting that Dixon won’t leave for USC, Arizona, or some other job should it come along. I guess my thing is that this story is about Dixon being loyal to Pitt. Dixon has shown that loyalty already. Every coaching job that comes open, the rumors get going about Dixon taking it, and he never does. So I am just not going to worry about him leaving when all things point to him liking Pitt and not wanting to go back west.

If he were to leave, I wouldn’t be upset with him like I was with Howland, because Howland couldn’t wait to leave. Dixon has made it very clear that he really likes being here. If he felt he needed to move on, I wouldn’t feel like it was because he couldn’t wait to find something better, but instead that circumstances here changed, or that someone made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Comment by The Prowler 05.12.08 @ 7:49 pm

I do agree with you, Dave, about being willing to dole out criticism when it is due. While I love Jamie Dixon as a coach and am very happy that he has been loyal to Pitt, I am not a Dixon ‘shill’. I have been critical of aspects of what he does as a coach when I think it is necessary. And I think we all need to be willing to look at both the faults and the good qualities.

The Cassin Diggs situation was a good example of that. While I ultimately think it was both necessary and a good thing to do, I am not sure whether or not Dixon handled it properly (I have no idea how it was handled). And while I think dead weight needs released, I would have accepted keeping Diggs on just because Dixon is too classy to cut him loose.

Comment by The Prowler 05.12.08 @ 7:54 pm

Prowler, I agree, that’s why I always thought there was more to the Diggs story than met the eye. Nobody is sure what happened exactly. The only quotes we have are from Diggs, and he would never bash himself if he had done something wrong. And it would have served no purpose for Dixon to air that type of stuff. That’s why, given that we know close to nothing about the situation, I find it ludicrous that someone just assumes it *must be the coach*, when everything you read and hear about the coach is exemplary. It could just as easily, or more liekly, been the kid.

I would have had no problem had they kept Diggs on as well. Jamie does have a record of keeping underperforming players. That’s more precedence to base things on, and even moreso why I get perplexed by those who say “Dixon didn’t handle it well.” I’m not entirely sure he didn’t handle it perfectly (or as perfectly as a messy situation can be handled), absent any facts.

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 8:17 pm

It’s still very disappointing that an otherwise very positive and uplifting story was devolved into something negative. That’s a shame.

Comment by Jeff 05.12.08 @ 8:22 pm

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