With the "sudden" departure of Jamie Dixon, the Pitt basketball program is at an important fork in the road. Athletics director Scott Barnes and Pitt now have two options.
The Panthers can go for the moon and hire a big-name, expensive candidate, that will face ENORMOUS pressure to succeed early on. Or, Barnes and company can tap a small-school success, that will take a year or two (or even three) before Pitt is relevant again. In both scenarios, coaches with local options exist.
Path A, is the one that Pitt fans want. They want local product Sean Miller of Arizona. They want Miller to return home to his alma mater so much that they would be accepting of Archie Miller, his lesser-proven yet still successful younger brother.
If Pitt can get Sean Miller, then by all means they should. The big question is, would he come? Miller is the ultimate home run candidate for most Pitt fans, despite having not reached the pinnacle of a Final Four appearance. If Path A is the direction they go, it's difficult to imagine they don't go after Miller.
His brother Archie, a hot commodity these days, is the head coach at Dayton. Ultimately, he is a choice that lies somewhere in between Paths A and B. See, in pursuing Archie, there would be tremendous pressure on him to succeed right away. He will always be compared to his brother, and if he has limited success, he could be out of Pitt in 3-5 years. In other words, Archie Miller is a Path B candidate, the small-school success, that will come with the Price of Path A.
If pursuing a coach with local ties, the program may look towards a smaller name and one with less pressure - Andy Toole. The 35 year-old is 120-88 in six seasons at nearby Robert Morris and defeated Kentucky in an NIT game a few years ago. He knows Pittsburgh and has had success at the NEC school.
There are even more familiar local names, too when it comes to going the route of Path B. With his recruiting success, some may bring up Barry "Slice" Rohrssen. He was a vital piece in his two stints with the Panthers and was probably the best recruiter that Pitt has ever seen. Currently, he is an associate head coach at St. John's. A program that is on the wrong end of the seesaw, I cannot imagine it being difficult to convince him to jump ship. His issue, of course, is the failed stint at Manhattan. Rohrssen may never be a D-I head coach again, let alone here at Pitt.
Or Pitt could go entirely off the board and go for the feel good pick in current assistant Brandin Knight. Knight is just as much a part of Pitt's surge to prominence as Dixon and Howland are. As a player, he led Pitt to a resurgence and since then, he has been with the program for years in various coaching roles. Is Knight ready to run a program?
One thing is clear - Pitt has reached a crossroads with the loss of Dixon and Barnes now has an interesting choice to make. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers go the local route with their next hire and, in particular, go for the home run in Sean Miller.