The anti-Jamie Dixon talk is usually reserved for one of two occasions:
1. After Pitt takes an early bow in the NCAA's, which is more often than not
2. While he's rumored to take another job
But this? We usually don't see this type of talk in the middle of the year. Alas, that's what three losses in a row in games you're expected to win will do.
Pittsburgh, like most towns with pro or major college sports teams, loves to go after head coaches. Bill Cowher got several doses before he won a Super Bowl and in the season immediately following. On a closer level, Walt Harris won 25 games in three seasons, giving Pitt its most success in like 20 years and was never really embraced. Then Dave Wannstedt outdid him, winning 27 over three and he didn't even get to choose to leave like Harris did.
And now we're at Dixon.
Look, anyone even remotely suggesting Dixon should be gone or isn't even a great coach is probably due for a check-up at their local psychiatric ward.
Fact: Jamie Dixon has never missed the NCAAs
Fact: Jamie Dixon has never won fewer than 20 games
Fact: Jamie Dixon has reached the Sweet 16 four times in eight years
Now, I'm as impatient as anyone - ask my wife who's forced to suffer with my wild technology obsessions and needing the latest/greatest thing right away. So when people bring up the fact that Dixon hasn't yet reached a Final Four or, gasp, won a National Championship, I get it. But here's the thing that has to be kept in perspective. It takes almost everyone a while to win.
It took Dean Smith 21 years to win a title at North Carolina. Krzyzewski was at Duke for 11 years before he got a ring. Jim Calhoun went 13 years without finishing on top at UConn. And it took Jim Boeheim 27 (27!) years at Syracuse before he cut down the final net. And it's not just about championships, either. Calhoun hadn't reached a Final Four before his first title and Boeheim took 11 years to get to one. It took Coach K and Dean only six years, but, well, they're Coach K and Dean.
Sure, there are coaches that do it faster, but the ones I listed are some of the best of all time. Most of the time, it just takes a while. Part of it's getting better players, part of it's learning how to coach in big games, and dude, part of it's just plain ol' luck.
You know what I think the problem fans have with Dixon really is?For one, he's not particularly dynamic and doesn't even come off as all that affable. Seriously, tell me some of the lasting memories you have from a single thing Jamie Dixon ever did. What's the one moment that sticks out in your mind when it comes to Dixon? Sound silly? It should. But I fully believe that his lack of a strong personality makes fans apathetic when it comes to him.
Another reason is that things came pretty easy for him right from the bat. There was no learning curve with him and while there was some initial shock that the train kept running at full steam after Ben Howland left, fans got into a lull with him and see him as another boring guy. The standards were high when he came in and even though he hasn't gotten through to that Final Four barrier, he's met them for the most part.
Now, as long as he's winning, everything's fine. But the minute he starts dropping just a bit, there's nothing to keep fans on his side. He hasn't been through great ups and downs here and he didn't pull Pitt out of the doldrums as a head coach. Things have always gone well under his watch and when something like this happens, frankly, I think people are just flat out confused.
The other thing that's forgotten in this tough year (keep in mind, the team is still 11-4) is that good programs have off years. North Carolina went through the Matt Doherty era within the past ten years and suffered. Syracuse went to the NIT two years in a row in 2007 and 2008. UConn missed the tournament in 2007 and went to the NIT in 2010 - the year before they won it all.
Dixon's not just good, he's great. He's the type of coach you build a program around ... even the kind you name a court after. He's already second on the school's all-time win list for coaches and if he stays for another 7-8 years, he'll likely move to first. Simply put, Dixon's not in a position to break the coaching record at Pitt, but shatter it. He broke the NCAA Division I record for most wins over his first six seasons and tied it for his first seven seasons. Forget the Pitt coaching record, Dixon could challenge some of the NCAA all-time records if he sticks around long enough.
Keep things in perspective - things aren't nearly as bad as they seem and if there were a coaching draft tomorrow, Dixon would still be a lottery pick.