The Trib's John Harris (who, by the way, has done some great work in my estimation in the past year) recently caught up with Jamel Artis as he talked a little about this upcoming season. One memorable quote was this one when comparing his new head coach vs. his old one:
"What I've seen so far, (Stallings) has a lot of trust in his players," Artis said. "I know he can trust me on the floor. I don't think I got that same trust with Dixon.
That's not a complete shot at Jamie Dixon, obviously. But, well, it's sort of a shot.
Did Dixon have a quick hook with his players? Absolutely. Anyone watching Pitt's brand of basketball under his watch knows that. A turnover wasn't an automatic trip to the bench in every situation obviously, but mistakes like that often led to a player being subbed out.
The question is, which way is better? Is it better to give your players leeway to make mistakes or is a quick hook the better method with the fear of coming out of games always looming? I don't know - I guess it depends on the type of players you have. But despite the downward trend in Pitt's basketball program over the past few years, there's no doubt that Dixon's method made him a very successful coach.
The other side to this coin is that, you always have to take comments like this with a grain of salt. Players will in general be quicker to criticize a guy once he's gone. Now, Artis' comments do hold some weight here. Dixon has long been known as a guy that may not be a 'player's coach.' That grumbling started with Dante Taylor moving to center. It continued with Khem Birch being critical of the program before leaving midway through his first season. It didn't stop when the entire 2011 class eventually transferred out. In a nutshell, my guess is that Artis' assessment may be true.
The other juicy bit of info in Harris' article was about Artis' role on the team this year. In addition to Artis saying the team will play a faster pace, there was this:
"(Stallings) trusts me, and he wants me to (be) point guard. I'm ready for that. It's basically on me to get my teammates open. Having the ball in my hand a lot more than last year, it's a key to this team."
Artis as the point guard is an interesting dynamic. I'm not sure I want him with the added responsibility of running the offense - he's too important as a scorer to the team, though maybe that changes with some development of guys like Damon Wilson and Cam Johnson. Giving him the point guard duties could wear him down a bit and hamper his ability to score points.
But part of this is about necessity, too. Pitt didn't lose much from last year, but the player most sorely missed will be starting point guard James Robinson, who ran the offense for the past four years. We can debate his effectiveness at times (particularly as a shooter), but the very real fact is that Pitt is coming into this season inexperienced there without Robinson and with the earlier transfer of Josh Newkirk last year.
Maybe Pitt gives Artis minutes at point guard, while grooming Justice Kithcart, Jonathan Milligan, and maybe even (though less likely) Wilson.