December 22, 2011

Squeezing in Basketball Notes

Filed under: Basketball,Coaches,Dixon,Players — Chas @ 11:26 am

Everyone is just a wee bit focused on the football side of things. There are some basketball things to get out there.

The Khem Birch situation just remains incredibly sad to me. This apparently was not thought through particularly well. There are even rumblings that Birch might actually want to come back to Pitt. Just one little problem so far:


That could be a hindrance.

The unconfirmed rumor as to why Birch may want to come back to Pitt, is that his “advisors” either did not know or forgot to inform Birch that transferring means sitting for a year. I kind of want to believe the did not know part, because it makes a sort of sense as to being this stupid. At the same time, considering how well known this rule is, to even casual college basketball fans I’m a touch skeptical.

I think Coach Dixon would be willing to consider letting him come back, but Birch has some serious fence-mending with his teammates. Judging by the way they have been talking openly after his departure he would have a lot to prove to them. If Birch could man-up to face them, I would be impressed. Have trouble seeing it happen.

Travon Woodall, may manage to return to the team in time for the Big East opening game. Probably not, but at least he is practicing more and getting healthy quickly.

In addition to coping with lots of new blood, injuries and other issues; the weak non-con has allowed Pitt to work on many things so far. One of them has been a slight tweak to the way they rebound. Much more gang rebounding than simply counting on the front court to corral most of them.

“We’re trying to challenge the guys with the numbers,” Dixon said of the new goals. “It’s something we talked about last year. We ended up second. We’re first again this year. It’s something we’ve done year after year. It’s our strength, and we need to continue to play to it and continue to build off it and not be satisfied.”

Without a dominating center, Dixon is asking his wing players and guards to contribute more rebounds. Nasir Robinson, a 6-5 power forward, leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game and Taylor is right behind him.

Lamar Patterson, a 6-5 small forward, is averaging 5.4 per game. His backup at small forward, 6-6 J.J. Moore, is averaging 3.4 per game.

“It adds something to what we’ve had in the past,” Dixon said. “We have bigger wings and more active rebounders at those spots. It’s something that can help us at the end of the day.”

Patterson has grabbed five rebounds or more in six of the team’s 12 games. He is one of five players on the roster who have done that this season.

“We all just go after it,” Patterson said. “We want everyone to attack the defensive boards. The only person getting back is the point guard for offense. We want to dominate the rebounding.”

Taylor has a 6.2 rpg average. Lots of players grabbing boards. Seems like a different player each game is gunning for a double-double.

Finally. The must read of the day. Pitt’s opponent tomorrow is Wagner. The coach of that team is Dan Hurley. Coach Dixon has twice pursued Hurley to be an assistant on his staff when Dan Hurley was coaching at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ.

Hurley has a lot of respect for Coach Dixon and considers him “someone I look up to, and talk to, and try to emulate.”

A little more.

On one occasion, Hurley and his wife, Andrea, hopped on a plane for a final face-to-face sit-down with Dixon.

Why would a guy who walked away from the Marist College head coaching job on the day he was to be introduced to the media — because Poughkeepsie was too far from his Freehold home and his New Jersey roots — seriously toy with the notion of heading to Pitt as an assistant?

“Because of Jamie,” was Hurley’s response following yesterday’s practice at Spiro Center. “He’s the only guy I ever really considered working for. I’ve always admired him as a straightforward person and a great coach. And I love the way his teams play.”

“Jamie is a basketball coach who just happens to be working in the Big East at a program that is one of the best in the country,” he said. “He’s great at what he does, but he’s not out there looking for his next move. He would be just as satisfied coaching in high school somewhere.”

Dixon was in the St. Benedict’s gym many times in Hurley’s decade there coaching some of the highest profile high school stars in the East.

“Jamie never wound up taking any of my guys,” Hurley laughed. “But he was always direct and up front and I admired that about him.”

Given the coaching family that Dan Hurley is a part, this is high praise.

After the past year in Pitt football I can’t believe anyone would be disappointed with someone considered “boring.” We could use some boredom around here. I’ll take boring and sincere over exciting and full of s@#! anyday

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 12.22.11 @ 4:51 pm

Frankly Frankcan, I agree. Who on the team gets the short straw? Shoudn’t the University be committed to those who came, but weren’t quite good enough? Ethics work both ways.

Comment by gc 12.22.11 @ 4:58 pm

Played college basketball myself. Just d3, so clearly at a different level, but in d3 we had no scholarships and had several instances of people quitting or transferring. In the case of kids quitting our coach would allow them back at practice, but they were done playing in games for the year. Happened twice, and worked well on both occassions. Te kids realized they messed up, paid their dued, and showed commitment to the program. They also benefited from practicing everyday and improving . Could see something similar happening in this case.

Comment by Big Bill 12.22.11 @ 5:00 pm

Did not burn bridges so let him back and put him in the weight room Hail To Pitt

Comment by 63Team 12.22.11 @ 5:41 pm


I really don’t feel qualified to make that decision or even make that armchair decision. Among things I would have to know:

While publicly he didn’t seem to burn bridges what really went on behind closed doors and practices?

Did Birch actually offend or be disrespectful?

How likely is that 4* or 5* we seem to be courting for next year?

Who has more upside – Birch or that new recruit?

How sincere does Birch seem?

Do the other players want him back?

Was he really just a loner or was he a malcontent?

IF I knew those answers, I could foor an opinion. As it stands, I feel compleely confident in saying I put my trust in Jamie for this one.

Comment by Bowling Green Panther 12.22.11 @ 5:51 pm

Bowling green what you say makes sence.I dont know
for sure what the odds are that we get the 5 star
there is also a 4 star but i would think may be a 60 percent chance we get one of them and i thougt we had agood shot at the 5 star before birch left
and i was wondering who whould be the odd man out and like i say that was before he left.

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.22.11 @ 6:30 pm

gc you are so right.

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.22.11 @ 6:33 pm

Do not forget for a moment that subconciously or not the players most affected by Birch’s leaving “Zania” was the most vocal about him not fitting in, not being able to handle the practices, and even “crying” in one of the practices. No one seems to question Zania’s statements as potentially self-serving.

Every player wants more time on the court and if a player much more skilled who plays the same positions as you leaves the program and if the press asks you or you seek out the press for a comment you may have a good reason to throw him under the bus.

Would any of the players feel differently if they had trouble adjusting to the big time their freshman year. None of the players on this team, except Taylor, have any idea of the expectations and pressures that were on Birch. No of them including Taylor with expectations that were over inflated and was required to be a major contributor or a starter immediately.

Ths is not Kentucky were everyone went to the NBA and you learn as you start. I hope for Pitt’s sake he comes back. The chemistry line is coming from the players benefitting from his absence. No one can say that can forsee a potential stronger front line in the country than Adams at center and Birch at SF.

Comment by DRW 12.22.11 @ 7:54 pm

coach chryst is looking at montanss jonathan smith to come to pitt to coach the QBS

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.22.11 @ 8:52 pm

Like so many kids his age there is chaos in Birch’s head, he’s not equipped to make such a drastic, life altering, career path decision; he’s running from that which he needs most. Coming back and being a man about it is a good start and Dixon will and should give him the opportunity. I want to see him back in his Pitt uniform as soon as possible. Watching him courtside in Knoxville I could see this kid has presence. When he figures things out he will have no limit.

Comment by Old School Panther 12.22.11 @ 11:53 pm

Who the crap are this kid’s advisers. What a bunch of dumb-asses

Comment by Tony C 12.23.11 @ 4:34 am

I didn’t know my head from my a** when I was 18. Who here hasn’t made a mistake in their lives?

If the “kid” truly repents and makes a good faith effort to fit in, then take him back. If handled the right way will show Jamie really cares about the players he recruits. And Birch can help this team right now, if nothing more than keeping sleepy honest

Comment by TZ 12.23.11 @ 7:27 am

Yeah, let’s bring him back, so that he can divide the locker room like he’s dividing Pitt fans on this Blog. Let’s alienate half the team and destroy everything that is Pitt Basketball for one highly overrated player! Brilliant idea…NOT!!

Comment by Steelfan 12.23.11 @ 8:59 am

Hey, folks:

It’s just sports were talking about here!I have read references to hell,religon, and repenting, i repeat it is only sports. We have major issues in our world, and khem birch leaving pitt is not one of them, sorry! i would love to see him return to the program, for his personal growth process. But if he doesn’t, that is okay, and i wish him the best. All of you who take all this stuff so serious, find a cause that really matters, and pursue it with the same passion as you do pursuing sports stories. PLeeeeeaaasssseeee.

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