I apologize (sort of) if you think you are being singled out in this rant. Honestly, it isn’t directed at any one person. It’s just that I’ve gotten a little worn down over the course of this season — and especially in the last week. It just seems that too many Pitt fans have gone off the deep end.
Maybe it’s taking the success this program has had for granted. Maybe it’s the frustration of the season. Maybe it’s the frustration of feeling so close in previous years. Maybe it’s because the football program has been such a source of angst that the basketball side has been the tether on the sanity that got cut this year. Maybe it’s just a very vocal minority.
Pitt is somehow above playing in the CBI. That this is an embarrassment. The players and coaches should hang their heads in shame and apologize to all, personally for this season. When did so many Pitt fans think they should be as twisted and warped as the fringes of UCLA and Kentucky?
I don’t know, but suddenly Pitt finally has a season where they truly take a step back. Where they don’t just underachieve, but fall flat on their face. And now the previous ten years of going to the NCAA Tournament is ancient history. The prior eight years of Jamie Dixon being the head coach are reduced to the failures — and any success was merely an aberration. That this year is the true norm.
It think what really wears me down is that criticisms that have no coherence from one whine to the next.
The basic: this team isn’t really that talented or very good, and they underachieved by failing to be a top-25 team as the preseason rankings indicated.
Dixon screwed up the Khem Birch situation because he didn’t coddle and pamper him enough — wasn’t sensitive enough to him — but, by god sit Ashton Gibbs and Dante Taylor’s asses on the bench for pouting and/or bad body language.
Companion to the above is the complaint after games that Dixon has too quick a hook with the younger players when they make a mistake on the court, while they themselves were screaming to get them out of the game when it happens in real time (this is a favorite for the liveblogs).
Pitt needs more offense, and the underclassmen need to play more (and if you can’t see the contradiction then you have blinders to the offensive output of Gilbert, Wright and Johnson).
Pitt should have taken a flyer/chance or two on some project/not as talented big men like Gary McGhee just in case of this year. Sure, J.J. Richardson and Dwight Miller didn’t pan out and transferred. Sure, Talib Zanna is still a project. Sure, Jaylen Bond got squeezed out by the numbers when Birch reclassified. Sure, Khem Birch flaked out. But apparently those don’t count, since it didn’t happen like McGhee.
That Nas, Woodall and Gibbs wouldn’t start for any other major conference team with NCAA Tournament aspirations. Yet, they disappointments this year.
The assistant coaches suck and are mere yes-men. Bill Barton has just completed his first season, but apparently that is enough time to render a verdict. Pat Sandle has been by Dixon’s side from the beginning. Present Rutgers head coach Mike Rice tried to hire Brandon Knight as his assistant head coach two years before.
Then there are the old nuggets that are being re-used. The claim that Dixon won’t play freshmen and underclassmen. Taft, Blair and even Birch got to start as freshmen, but that doesn’t count.
Sure, most freshmen have seen around 10 minutes/game or more in the past 4 years including Gibbs, Wanamaker, Woodall, Patterson, Taylor, Johnson, Zanna and Wright; but obviously they all should have gotten more playing time. The ones who didn’t — McGhee, Nas and Moore were clearly the rule not the exception, and without any possible explanation. Also worth noting that except for Zanna, Woodall and Taylor all the other players in this sample (that are at least sophomores) saw their minutes at a minimum double.
What else? The Sam Young should have started over Levon Kendall back in the 2006-07 season. Not that anyone still having this argument 5 years later is saying more about themselves than anything else. (Like an inability to let something go.)
I got a kick out of the claim that Dixon doesn’t really develop players since Aaron Gray made most of his leap as a junior, but didn’t improve more as a senior (pay no attention to the significant drop in turnovers and increase in blocks — points and rebounds are the only metric). Or that most of the leaps by other players like Wanamaker and McGhee also happened from their sophomore to junior years. If they don’t make more of a leap by their senior years, then it is somehow obvious that they have not been fully developed. I mean, there’s no way they were already close to their ceiling before that.
I don’t like being the optimist. I’m not that good at it. I’m much better (and happier) with a fine coat of cynicism. Yet, the fact is, seasons like this happen to every program and coach. Sometimes it’s not this bad. Sometimes its worse. Lots of factors go into it.