Sorry. I have been trying to get healthy and pull double shifts the last week or so. Somehow the two don’t work well together. I was working on a post-mortem post on the Wichita State game yesterday when the news of Dixon’s extension started seeping.
That kind of changed things a bit.
So let’s work from this point. Jamie Dixon is not going anywhere.
Stating that he intends to “finish his career at the University of Pittsburgh,” Pitt men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon reinforced that commitment today when he signed a 10-year contractual agreement that runs through the 2022-23 season.
Dixon owns the highest winning percentage in school history (.753) with a 262-86 record from 2003-13. He has led the Panthers to nine NCAA Tournaments in 10 seasons, the most NCAA appearances by a Pitt coach.
“Pitt and Pittsburgh are home,” Dixon said. “My family and I feel blessed to be part of such a great institution and wonderful city. It is the people who truly make a place special. I could not be surrounded by better players, staff and administration. These aren’t just people I work for and with every day. They’re friends and I’m very thankful for that. I would like to express special appreciation to our leadership team of Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Athletic Director Steve Pederson and Executive Vice Chancellor Jerry Cochran. Their guidance and friendship have been invaluable. I greatly appreciate the faith and support they have always shown me since my arrival at Pitt.”
I know there is a vocal minority that feels like Dixon should be gone; along with a very frustrated group after the Wichita State flop ready to say good-bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out to USC.
I’m not in that group.
I like Coach Jamie Dixon. I think he is the best coach the school has had. You can make a case for Doc Carlson, but that’s about it. In terms of wins. In terms of national respect. In terms of sustained success. Until the Dixon (and Howland) time, Pitt never had finished .500 or better for more than seven consecutive seasons (1910-17). Pitt hasn’t finished with a losing record since 2000.
I love Pitt, but I’m not deluding myself that this is a basketball program of great historical significance or entitled to any success. It is also does not have a local population that provides a steady stream of quality talent to build teams.
Nor am I claiming to be satisfied. Hardly. The losses in the NCAA Tournament — and recently in the Big East Tournament — have been maddening and highly disappointing.
But that’s really what most of the dissatisfaction concerning Dixon is about. Not the performance during the season. Not the lack of off-the-court problems. Not spending most of each season ranked in the top-25. Not the recruiting that continues to get better. It’s about the losses in the post-season.
It’s easy to say that there are plenty of better coaches out there. Better recruiters. Better Xs-and-Os guys. Getting one of them is something entirely different. And then it is a complete and utter unknown as to whether they will actually succeed.
Oliver Purnell rebuilt Dayton then made Clemson relevant. He was actually getting talent and getting Clemson fans to show up for basketball games. They actually made the NCAA Tournament. There was no doubt he was a good coach. Then he took the big money grab at DePaul, and as big a mess as it was, Purnell hasn’t been able to make it any better.
Over at Clemson, they went out and hired a very successful, respected, local to the region mid-major coach in Brad Brownell. He won at UNC-Wilmington and then at Wright State. It looked like a good hire and fit. They have been sliding slowly and steadily back into their irrelevance in the ACC. Wake Forest found Dino Gaudio not a good enough coach and blew everything up with Jeff Bzdelik — for which Colorado was luck enough to reset and hit gold with Tad Boyle.
Those hires happen a lot more frequently than say, Fred Hoiberg coming back to Iowa State and bringing them to relevance.
There are only a handful of blue-chip jobs. Jobs where the success is expected, the recruiting is national and just the name on the front of the jersey will get the recruit to listen: Kentucky, Indiana, UNC, Kansas and UCLA.
The next tier are jobs where the fans place such a value on the basketball program and/or will the school put the support and resources into it to have success: Duke, Texas, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Syracuse.
After that it gets a lot flatter in terms of the difference between programs with the appeal and chance to win. It doesn’t take long to tumble quickly. The difference between a Miami and a Clemson is hardly vast. Nor between a USC and a Pitt.
If you’ve noticed anything in the last eight years, it is that coaching searches have hardly been easy for any school. Even Kentucky struck out with Billy Donovan and had no solid back-up plan. Arizona and Oregon had protracted, embarrassing searches that had them trying to shovel money at coaches to no avail. Maryland, NC State and Illinois struggled to find someone to take their jobs. That they have worked out is a relief for those schools but was also an eye-opener for a lot of their fans in terms of ego blow.
Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart would not touch the Pitt job. They have turned down comparable jobs that offered more money without batting an eye. UCLA will want either of these guys, and they don’t know if they can get them.
Sean Miller is not anywhere close to the lock to return to Pitt people like to claim. Not with what he has going for him in Arizona, and how much money and resources that program will provide him.
Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast has people in a rightful swoon over him with the pure dominance of Georgetown on Friday night, and a backstory that now screams destined to win at everything. But the list of Dan Monson, Stan Heath, Anthony Grant, Doc Saddler, Mike Fox and so on is extensive.
Then there’s the practical side of this. Pitt officially enters the ACC in just a few months. Now that the season is over, for all intents and purposes, they are an ACC program. A change of conferences is not the ideal time to hit the reset button on a program that is not in crisis.
If Dixon had left, odds are Steven Adams goes pro. Who knows if Mike Young and James Newkirk still come to Pitt? That leaves a frontcourt with just Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore. The backcourt is suddenly a lot thinner — and lacking any ball-handler besides Robinson. More transfers become likely as tends to happen with a coaching change.
We saw it last year. The line between a CBI season or the NCAA Tournament is not nearly that huge. An injury here, some chemistry issues there. Next thing you know, the team is a mess.
Then there is this. Losing Dixon means Steve Pederson is making the hire for the next head basketball coach. Exactly how many of you trust or even want him involved in that decision?