Mar 20, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon directs his team during practice the day before the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt Basketball: Why extending Jamie Dixon was the right move

After yet another early exit from the NCAA Tournament, there was a lot of speculation that Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon would elect to head out west to USC following his 10th season on the Panthers bench.

But Dixon quickly put an end to any speculation by signing a 10-year extension that will keep him with the university until the 2022-23 season.

Mar 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon calls a time out against the Syracuse Orange during the second half of a quarterfinal game during the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. Syracuse won 62-59. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

He stated that he wanted to “finish his career at the University of Pittsburgh,” and that “Pitt and Pittsburgh are home.”

If there is one coach who has shown that he will honor his deal its Dixon, but his future aside it was the right move for the university as they prepare to head into the ACC.

Dixon owns the highest winning percentage in school history (.753) with a 262-86 record from 2003-13. He has led the Panthers to nine NCAA Tournaments in 10 seasons, the most NCAA appearances by a Pitt coach. In addition, he has compiled a .658 winning percentage (127-66) in Big East regular-season play, the highest in league history and ahead of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (.654), Louisville’s Rick Pitino (.653) and retired Georgetown coach John Thompson (.653).

That’s a list of Hall of Fame coaches that he tops.

The Panthers are one of only seven teams nationally to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 11 (two under Ben Howland) of the past 12 seasons (2002-13). That elite group includes Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Pitt, Texas and Wisconsin. That’s elite company for a coach that many wanted gone after their latest loss to Wichita State.

But consider the fact that Dixon took one of the youngest teams during his tenure and exceeded expectations by going 24-9 overall and posting a 12-6 Big East mark. Four starters and eight total lettermen are set to return next season, so it makes perfect sense for both Dixon to want to be here and for the Panthers to want him back.

Dixon will be criticized for failures in the NCAA tournament and his 10-9 overall record warrant that, but he has also seen his share of bad luck.

The Panthers make the Final Four in 2009 if Scottie Reynolds doesn’t turn into a hero. They also likely make the Final Four in 2011 if they get past Butler. It wasn’t Dixon who missed a free-throw (Gilbert Brown) and it wasn’t Dixon who committed a boneheaded foul (Nassir Robinson) that sent Pitt home early.

It also wasn’t Dixon who threw up brick after brick Thursday against the Shockers. His job is to prepare his team and put them in a position to win and he does it as good as anyone in the nation.

Let’s also look at the fact of how hard it is to win a National Championship.

Legendary coaches Bobby Knight (1976 and 1981) and Roy Williams (2005 and 2009) have only won two titles each in a combined 59 years of coaching. Knight and Williams have combined to win 1,602 games, but have managed to cut down the nets only four times.

Then there are legendary coaches in: Thompson (1984), Larry Brown (1988), Jerry Tarkanian (1990), Pitino (1996), Lute Olson (1997), Tom Izzo (2000), Boeheim (2003), Bill Self (2008) and John Calipari (2012) who have won only one title in their career. All of these guys are either in or are headed to the Basketball Hall of Fame, yet none have cut down the nets more than once.

The thing they all have in common though is that their championship didn’t come early in their career, which means Dixon is on the right path.

Dixon has also adjusted, not only with his coaching style, but with his recruiting as well as the Panthers are getting a better quality of player. One day Dixon will land the type of guy that can carry him to a title, similar to what Carmelo Anthony did for Boeheim.

Of course there are still some things to criticize Dixon over and for me, it begins and ends with the cupcake non-conference schedule.

Finally, for those that still want Dixon out, I ask the question of if not Dixon than whom?

Arizona’s Sean Miller may have been an option being that he is an alum, but other than that there is no guarantee that a young coach like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens will have any more success than Dixon. It also makes little sense to give the reigns to Brandin Knight, who has no head coaching experience.

It’s easy to blame the head coach when things don’t go the way you want it, but Pitt fans have it made with Dixon. Overall it makes no sense to want Dixon gone. All he does is win and it won’t be long before he breaks through the NCAA Tournament ceiling.

Tags: Jamie Dixon Pittsburgh Panthers Basketball

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