So head basketball coach Jamie Dixon signed an extension today. The deal would keep him on the Panthers' bench through the 2022-2023 season.
First things first - the deal doesn't mean Dixon will definitely be in Oakland for the next decade. He could be gone as soon as next season and as Mike Rice proved when he left Robert Morris, you can even leave immediately after receiving an extension. There's always the chance that USC continues to struggle and needs another coach or that the UCLA job opens up down the road, but Dixon sounded as if he were a man very excited about staying Pitt over the long haul.
The extension will surely annoy some, but the notes from the press release pretty much speak for themselves:
- Dixon has the highest winning percentage of anyone ever at Pitt
- Dixon has the highest winning percentage in Big East history
- Nine NCAA Tournaments in ten years
- One of only seven programs to make the NCAAs in 11 of the past 12 years
- This was one of Dixon's youngest teams ever, yet they won 24 games
And one thing not mentioned was Dixon's ability to recruit better players. With Dante Taylor, Khem Birch, and Steven Adams, Pitt has had three top 25 players in the nation in the past four years. The knock that he isn't able to recruit big time players is unfounded if you take the recruiting sites even a little seriously. Dixon isn't consistently putting together top 15 classes yet, but then again, few coaches are.
I feel like it's been Groundhog Day around here. All of the reasons for wanting to keep Dixon have been made over and over, but here you go again.
The problem with wanting Dixon gone is always one of greed. Pitt fans have it pretty good with the basketball program, even as it underachieves in the postseason. There are scores of programs with some degree of history that don't even make the tournament regularly and are up and down. There are so few programs that make the NCAAs year after year that it's ridiculous. It's human nature to want more, but just because Pitt has underachieved greatly in the tournament doesn't mean it's time to abandon ship.
The funny thing about the notion of wanting to throw Dixon overboard is that there's not even a great option waiting in the wings. This isn't like wanting to bench Tino Sunseri for the backup quarterback. The obvious move would be to call Sean Miller at Arizona, but there's no guarantee he'd leave a pretty good situation. And all of the up-and-comers like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens are even less likely to come.
Then there's also the fact that who's to say Pitt would be better off even if they landed one of those guys? For all of Miller's success, he hasn't been to a Final Four, either. And Smart and Stevens are wanted by practically everybody. Even if Pitt got their hands on either one, who's to say they would fall in love with the city as Dixon has and stay for more than a few seasons? Pitt could quite easily end up as a worse program by letting Dixon walk.
Things could be worse. Far worse. Appreciate Dixon for what he is - a very good coach who runs a clean program and puts consistently good teams out year after year. Don't take that as a sign that I'm resigned to the program having reached its ceiling. I don't believe that to be true and I think Dixon will eventually break through in the postseason. And like we've said before, some great coaches have taken a while to get to Final Fours and win titles.
Dixon hasn't been perfect, but the Panthers have a good thing going and the program is better off with him. All things considered, it's not so bad having a program consistently in the top 25.