In the midst of all this football about to kick off, there was an interesting Athlon list that came out this week. The article takes a look at the top college basketball coaches.
In it, Pitt's Jamie Dixon surprisingly tops UCLA coach Ben Howland.
Now, first things first: Athlon ranks Michigan's John Beilein significantly ahead of Howland, so (and trust me, I like Athlon's work) you've got to take this list with a grain of salt. With that said - onto the analysis.
I'm a fan of Dixon, obviously. When he took over for Howland several years ago, there was no real indication if he could sustain Pitt's success. He's been able to do that and deserves a ton of credit. But when it comes to ranking the two, I have a hard time placing Dixon ahead of his mentor. For one, it was Howland (not Dixon) that got the ball rolling at Pitt. That's not to say Dixon couldn't have done that if given the opportunity ... he just didn't. Howland was able to take a program that had floundered for about a decade and turned it into a national power almost overnight.
Even beyond that, though, top coaches generally are ranked based on what they've accomplished in the postseason. And when it comes to that, there's no question Howland has done more.Howland has had more talent at UCLA, but it's not as if Pitt has had middle-of-the-road teams. The Panthers have been ranked No. 1 on Dixon's watch, but have yet to reach a Final Four. Just as bad, in my mind, is that they've only reached one Elite Eight despite regularly being a top ten team. Howland, meanwhile, has not only reached three Final Fours (three in a row, actually) in the same amount of time at UCLA, but he's been to a National Championship game.
I'm not a Dixon-basher in the sense that many people are, blaming him for Pitt not going farther in the NCAAs. I think he'll get there eventually and plenty of big name coaches took a while to get to a Final Four. And the calls for his firing last year were beyond idiotic. But the fact is that Howland has done plenty of damage in the NCAAs and Dixon hasn't.
Athlon says future projections went into the analysis, and that's fine. But at 55, Howland could still easily coach at least another decade if he wanted and can add to his impressive totals. Until Jamie reaches at least a couple of Final Fours or wins a title, it's hard to rank him in front of Howland in my mind.