Lost a bit in the hoopla of the Pitt basketball and the NCAA Tournament discussion in the past few days were some key comments made by athletics director Scott Barnes regarding head coach Jamie Dixon.
Barnes talked a bit about the Panthers' need to improve non-conference scheduling a little as well as the team's chances to make the NCAA Tournament in an article by Paul Zeise that dropped yesterday. But one thing that shouldn't be lost there is that Barnes showed his full support of Dixon.
While a pocket of disgruntled Pitt fans out there want to see Dixon replaced, it's clear that Barnes is not in that contingent.
Barnes said he has seen real progress from the program this year and thinks Dixon has done an excellent job with this team — and he points to the progress of redshirt freshman Cameron Johnson and sophomore Ryan Luther as evidence.
He said he will sit down at the end of the season with Dixon — like he does with every coach — and put together a strategy for the future, but he believes there aren’t many things that need to change.
“Look, we have got one of the best coaches in America,” Barnes said. “As all our programs have, we are going through growing pains with what we are seeing in the ACC. It is a different recruiting footprint for us, there is a wider net we need to have for players.
While realizing that some fans would like to see Dixon replaced for what they see as a lack of progress the past several years, that group is still in the minority. And personally, as I've stated repeatedly, I don't believe that Dixon's job should be in any jeopardy right now. Not only would the Panthers need to find a very clear upgrade (not an easy task), the program, while taking a step back from the previous decade, is not exactly at the bottom of the heap. There are times programs should take gambles at the head coaching position and this simply isn't one of those. Sure, Pitt could take a risk and look for a coach to bring them more success. But the program could also very easily regress even further and be looking for yet another coach after that one.
Right now, Pitt is a program that needs to improve but is not so far down the totem pole where firing the most successful coach at the school in any sport over the past 30 years should be a viable option. This is still a program that has been ranked in the Top 25 at some point in three of the past four seasons and has reached the NCAA Tournament in those years as well. The program has not been elite, but has been good enough to buy Dixon more time. In Dixon's 12-year career, the team has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice. Few coaches have had that kind of success.
While our opinions may vary, the one that matters the most (Barnes') means that the program is clearly keeping him.