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March 24, 2013

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?

how did that positive thinking thing work out for you????

Comment by Coach Ditka 03.25.13 @ 2:57 pm

I wish Jamie Dixon would call the FGCU Coach and help him out with some advice. Jamie could explain to him that he should slow it down and play better defense. I just don’t see James Robinson running the FGCU offense. While he has him on the phone Dixon could tell him the secret to Pitt’s 3 point shooting.

Comment by Wayne 03.25.13 @ 3:01 pm

Works better for me,But it hasn’t worked out the way I had hoped yet.Maybe next year.

Comment by spiritofsection22 03.25.13 @ 3:03 pm

spiritofsection I think you hit the nail on the head. It is the same offensive scheme Dixon always uses. Blair did not get his points from entry passes they were from rebounds Young got his when Fields wasn’t playing around with the ball out front.
Young was awesome and did not get enough touches because of Dixon’s tendency to annoit the senior guard (marginal players) Woodall, Gibbs, Fields, Krauser to run the show and had the green light to shot at any time despite who was on the floor.
Dixon will be forced next year to have someone who understands the game, Robinson, run the offense next year. Someone who does not have an ego way beyond his skill level. This in itself will be worth 8 to 10 points a game.

Comment by pittisit 03.25.13 @ 3:10 pm

This whole conventional wisdom that Pitt is going to be stronger next year seems mostly based on the opinion that Adams will somehow morph into a dominant player.

I believe Adams will be better next year, but incrementally better. Maybe average 10 pts and get 8 bounds a game and block 2-3 shots and change a few more.

The thing is, that isn’t dominant. That’s just a good big man — maybe even good enough to be in contention for all conference 2nd or 3rd team. It’s not that much better than Gary McGhee was and Adams got pushed around a lot more this year than Gary ever did.

It certainly isn’t good enough to carry a team, especially in a guard’s game (did you see LaSalle beat Ole Miss?)…….. especially in a guard’s game in which Robinson is too slow to penetrate and you have no proven shooters.

We have to face the fact that Adams is years away from realizing his potential and we’ll see very little of that happen in a Pitt uniform.

This is the point Fittipaldo was making with the column about needing to do something with the remaining schollies. Pitt has to bring in some offensive punch now. They desperately need a guard who can get in the lane and either get to the hole or set up others and they desperately need a shooter.

With some more firepower on the floor, they can let Patterson get back to being what he is — an effective role player and they can let Robinson be what he is — an effective floor general who shouldn’t be counted on to beat anybody off the dribble.

And just let Ziegler go…….

So yes, Adams could be a nice part of a better team next year………..but only if Dixon scours the country and pulls in a couple ringers.

Comment by hugh green 03.25.13 @ 3:11 pm

pittisit, Adams wasn’t ready to get tons of touches in the nonconference schedule, but as he got more and more used to playing big time college basketball he got more minutes and more touches. That’s what you do with a very inexperienced freshman you take it slow. You don’t just throw him to the wolves and say hey carry out offense. He’s still learning things like how to really play against a zone D and whatnot. I just don’t understand why you continue to hype him to the point that if he doesn’t average 20, 10 and 3 next year that you will say Dixon wasted his talent.

Comment by Wardapalooza 03.25.13 @ 3:17 pm

Hugh Green – Great Post. Very True.

Comment by Upittbaseball 03.25.13 @ 3:20 pm

Also, Levance Fields and Karl Krauser were not marginal guards. Fields was a great PG and look at the roster Krauser had around him when he was a senior. The guy did everything that the team needed. And I wasn’t a huge fan of Gibbs but there was literally no one else on that team that could have handled the ball. So giving Gibbs the ball wasn’t the mistake, not having a competent PG on the bench was the mistake.

Comment by Wardapalooza 03.25.13 @ 3:21 pm

Hugh,What team couldn’t use the mytical firepower guard you descrbe? I think you underestimate Adams which is easy enough to do based on the fact we never made any effort to make him the central figure in our offense this year.I hoped Woodall would rise to the occasion but still can’t swallow how very bad he was.I can understand why some were skeptical of our chances but I definitely didn’t see the turd he through up coming our way.Seemed like a nice enough kid and I feel sorry his career ended so poorly.

Comment by spiritofsection22 03.25.13 @ 3:23 pm

Hugh, if Pitt plays LaSalle 10 times, Pitt wins 7 times. And if Pitt plays Florida GC Pitt wins at least 7 times. Let’s not overreact to a few NCAA tournament games.

Comment by Wardapalooza 03.25.13 @ 3:26 pm

the coach with the ny pipe line was barry rohrssen

Comment by FRANKCAN 03.25.13 @ 3:46 pm

College hoop in 2013 is a game based on penetration and scoring or penetration and kicking out for threes. Passing around the perimeter in the Dixon tradition isn’t going to get it done, especially in closely played tournament games that often come down to offensive playmaking at the end.

I’ve watched some Newkirk video. It looks like he’ll be the first athletic guard Pitt has had in many years. So my hopes are up for him but not as a freshman.

We all wondered why none of the guards would feed Adams this year. My guess is it’s because they saw enough in practice to know it wasn’t a hot idea. So yes, feeding him will be a better idea next year………but not something you can hang your hat on.

Ward…..glad you’re sure Pitt would beat LaSalle and FGCU 70% of the time. See if anyone will take your imaginary bet and pay you when Pitt wins all those imaginary games. One question — would you be expecting Woodall and Robinson and Patterson to be able to stay close to LaSalle’s backcourt? Guard them at the three-point line and also keep them out of the lane?

It’s like everybody thinks this team is just a few bounces away again and everything’s going to be OK when, all of a sudden, Adams becomes Bill Walton. Jeez, folks, I’d be excited if he got close to where Aaron Gray was his senior year.

There just isn’t enough around him on the roster next year. Like I said, very hopeful about Newkirk. But that probably isn’t the answer for next year…..

Comment by hugh green 03.25.13 @ 4:06 pm

A couple interesting comments from the CBS crew I thought were interesting.

Please, I know they’re talking heads, I’m just saying I thought they were interesting.

One was “in general”, the other actually related to Pitt.

Charles Barkely, general comment about recruiting and coaching, and I know he’s a bag of wind but…

“Hey, these kids know what’s going on and who’s playin’ what style. I’m tellin’ ya, these kids want nothing to do with these styles of setting up a play every time down the court.”

Kenny Smith talking about Steven Adams. The main set up guy (can’t think of name right now), said, “well, you know next year, Pitt’s offense will be running through Steven Adams, a 7’0″ athletic guy, it has too, who wouldn’t”.

Kenny Smith replies, “well, if they decide to actually run their offense through him.”

Comment by Dan 03.25.13 @ 4:36 pm

Feeding Adams couldn’t have looked worse than watching Woodall shoot and penetrate last Thursday.You don’t give him near enough credit and LaSalle throws up a couple good games and they become the model for the nation? FGCU has had a great run and deserve credit but I am not willing to anoint them the new order quite yet.The style you describe sounds real good but it didn’t seem to work too well for the Zags when Witchita St. played our style and sent them home.I think you just find fault and like kicking Pitt around.We are an easy target right now but that doesn’t assure we won’t do better next year.Adams looks to me like he will be way better than Gray.

Comment by spiritofsection22 03.25.13 @ 4:45 pm

Hugh, I definitely agree with most of what you say, particularly regarding penetration. We haven’t had anyone proficient at driving to the hoop or posting up and hitting the 5-15 footer. Patterson tries but is not routinely successful. Moore is stripped too often. As you mentioned, JR a little slow. I think Wright may develop, he looks a little like Wanamaker.

I disagree a little regarding Adams. More touches is going to make him better. He may not power to the hoop like our last big men, but I think he will be successful at drawing the D in and hitting the open man. His one on one moves are getting stronger. In any case passing around the perimeter for 25 seconds does not cut it.

I also like Johnson, and I think he will develop into a strong all around player, although I thought that about Moore and was wrong. Moore has next year and I hope he takes it seriously. Unfortunately I think Patterson has topped out.

Let’s hope that giving minutes to Johnson and Wright will pay dividends next year.

I hope you are right about the freshmen. If they fill weaknesses as well as Adams and Robinson did this year, we may surprise some people.

Comment by gc 03.25.13 @ 4:48 pm

Chas excellent post. Yes, we’re all dissapointed with the Wichita State loss, that’s no reason to fire a good coach who helped put you on the map. getting rid a Jamie Dixon, very successfull coach, who incidently wants to be here, would be foolish. Anyone who thinks Shawn miller would leave Arizona for Pitt is delusional. Coaching at Arizona is a better basketball job than at Pitt. Although Miller is doing well in the NCAA tourny, Arizona lost to UCLA 3 time this season. Twice in regular Pac 12 season and once in the conference tournament.

Comment by Justinian 03.25.13 @ 5:07 pm

EMel and Dan and outhers
there was a time if a coach wanted to get a QB
make his school a winner he just drove up to
the pittsburgh suburb of western pa and got one
here is a list of some of them.
john unitas
dan marino
joe namath
joe montana
charlie batch
jim kelly
babe parilli
george blanda
gus ferrotte
mac bulger
tom clements
terry hanratty
alex van pelt
bruce gradkowski
chuck fusina
john hufnagel
johnny lujack
dave havern
richie lucas
fred mazurek
tyler palko
luke getsy
tom yewcic
lou cecconni

i am sure i left a few off
but what happened we used to grow QB the way outhers grow corn and not just QBS but great QBS
some of the best of all time.

Comment by FRANKCAN 03.25.13 @ 5:31 pm

Pitt isn’t the only team playing outdated BB….ND, UCLA (was), Wisconsin, G’Town,….meanwhile Minnesota decides to fire their dinosaur for a…”fresh set of eyes”

link to

As I said though, if Dixon is willing to open things up some with new assistants who can recruit, stop the insane practice of pounding a square peg in a round hole (Taylor at the 5 instead of 4, Nasir Robinson at the 4, JJ Moore gaining weight so he play the 4, etc.) and let talented quick players play before they get to be lock down defenders in their junior year, stop starting seniors just because they stayed with you 4 years and gym pets like Patterson, I will be happy he stayed.

Now to see if this lottery ticket I bought brings me big bucks…

Comment by Jackagain 03.25.13 @ 5:37 pm

jackagain i won 4 dollars is that big bucks.

Comment by FRANKCAN 03.25.13 @ 6:02 pm

NIT just started booby mo up 9 to 2 lets go booby

Comment by FRANKCAN 03.25.13 @ 6:18 pm

LOL Frankcan….probably more than I’ll ever get.

Comment by Jackagain 03.25.13 @ 7:56 pm

“…i am sure i left a few off…”
Comment by FRANKCAN 03.25.13 @ 5:31 pm

FRANKCAN – you missed George Blanda, Youngwood, PA

Comment by JLawrence 03.26.13 @ 12:14 pm

Excellent evaluation of Dixon’s recruiting success or lack of it in Panthers Prey. Worth reading very insightful.

Comment by pittisit 03.26.13 @ 3:32 pm

hugh Green, Wichita state just beat and dominated LeSalle and I think outside of a Tray Woodall bad game I can’t see how much better the shockers are over Pitt. I think that these two schools are winning games solely based on hitting shots and scoring ahead of the opposing defenses. If you play straight up D and go down low these two teams have no chance. The problem is that Gtown and Miss State could not establish their defenses. But what you saw with Wichita State and you will see with florida is that if you can get back on D these teams aren’t good.

Comment by Native Washingtonian 03.29.13 @ 1:45 pm

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