The rumors of Barry Rohrssen’s return have been swirling for a couple of weeks. To be honest, it has been hard to separate fact from wishful thinking that has been put out there. But it seems that Jamie Dixon is indeed bringing back Slice.
Sources confirmed Thursday night that Barry “Slice” Rohrssen will rejoin Dixon’s staff as an assistant coach, replacing Pat Sandle, an original member of Dixon’s staff who spent the past decade with the program.
That detail is surprising. Sandle first started with Pitt in 1999 under Ben Howland. The LA native left for a couple years to be an assistant at UCLA under Lavin. Of course, Lavin was fired by UCLA who hired Howland and Sandle was not retained. And when Dixon became the Pitt head coach, he hired Sandle.
Most people — including myself — figured that if Dixon made a change on staff, it would be with Bill Barton. His recruiting has been lackluster, and no one exactly raves about his abilities as an X’s-and-O’s guy.
Sandle didn’t do much (any?) recruiting. At least not going out on the road. Generally not a big deal since only two assistants can be out at a time. Plenty of coaches employ one coach who is more of a strategy, scouting and X-and-O guy. Billy Donovan, Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim immediately spring to my mind as the most prominent head coaches who did that.
Sandle emphasized the defense, and coached the frontcourt. You look at the development of players like Wanamaker, Fields, Woodall, Patterson among others and you have to give credit to Sandle. Presumably the frontcourt responsibilities will fall more to Brandin Knight.
So letting go of Sandle is a big change. Potentially bigger than bringing back Rohrssen.
Rohrssen was a member of Pitt’s staff from 2001-06, serving under Dixon and Ben Howland. He was Dixon’s associate head coach from 2004-06 before accepting the head coaching job at Manhattan.
Rohrssen did not fare well as a head coach. He recruited well enough, but did not win. He spent last year as an assistant with the Portland Trailblazers’ D-League team. He connected well with the players and staff.
Blazers D-League team in Boise loses a good one: Barry Rohrssen’s returning to Pitt coaching staff. Neil Olshey loved job he did w/ Stampede
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 2, 2013
The hiring of Rohrssen hopefully suggests that there was more money for paying assistants in the recent extension of Dixon’s contract. It is no secret that Pitt — historically — does not do a very good job of paying assistants. Head coaches usually have to fight the administration for more money to pay assistants. (Oh, and for the love of god, please don’t turn this into a “It’s all Steve Pederson’s fault” thread. This was an issue when Jeff Long was in charge. It was an issue before Pederson. It is an administrative issue at Pitt that goes beyond the AD.)
Obviously there are a ton of open scholarships to fill. This move, now, suggests that the focus is really shifting to the 2014 and even 2015 classes at this point. Not that Dixon and the staff have given up on finding more help for the coming season. It is just that the available players that can provide immediate help has gotten small.