Pitt: Dixon leaves for TCU

Mar 17, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon talks with the media during a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men
Mar 17, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon talks with the media during a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men /

It’s official—Jamie Dixon is gone. The now-former Pitt coach has left to take the helm at his alma mater, TCU.

From afar, this may seem like a puzzling move for Dixon, as he has turned Pitt into a perennial NCAA Tournament contender.  TCU has been buried in the cellar of the Big 12 and they’ve been there for a while.

But there are many layers to this move and it’s important to understand them in order to get inside the mind of the man that took Pitt to new heights.

First, and most importantly, the move to the ACC has not panned out well for the Pitt basketball program. On the surface, the transition may look like a team struggling to transition to a new league. However, it’s not that simple. The Panthers have not recruited well over the past few seasons.  They have all but abandoned their NYC/NJ pipeline that produced great players like Ashton Gibbs, Levance Fields and Brandin Knight.

The only player on the current roster from the area is Chris Jones, a Teaneck, New Jersey native. Pitt lost their identity and have yet to formulate a plan to replace it. 

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Fan reaction and dissent with Dixon hasn’t helped this situation either, but I have a hard time believing it’s the primary culprit. Nobody enjoys having their decisions constantly critiqued by the fans and media, but as the coach at a big time university, it should not be the driving force pushing him away from a program he’s helped build for 13 years.

After Dixon signed a large contract extension in 2013, he cited then-chancellor Mark Nordenberg and then-athletic director Steve Pederson as major factors in his decision to stay. Neither are still at the university.

Pitt’s program is not what it once was and when they hired  Athletic Director Scott Barnes, it’s easy to understand why Dixon might have seen this as an opportunity to escape a toxic situation.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN and Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports have both reported that Barnes appeared surprisingly willing to let Dixon walk during this entire process. It’s entirely possible that Barnes wants to put his own stamp on the Pitt basketball program, just as he has in football. Of course, his hiring decision in football has worked out quite well so far.

The question now, of course, is where Pitt will go from here. There are many obvious choices out there, including former Pitt player Sean Miller, now coaching at Arizona and Archie Miller, head coach at (relatively) nearby Dayton.  The Miller brothers played for their father at nearby Blackhawk High School.  Sean starred at Pitt while Archie played at NC State.

Former Pitt players have already began calling for Knight, who had his number retired and has been an assistant under Dixon since the 2007-08 season. Like Dixon, he has no doubt been a great ambassador for the basketball program, but I’d be surprised if they went that route.

Frankly, I have no idea what they are going to do, but I will shoot down the idea that this will be a quick fix, regardless of the hire.

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As much as I (and everyone really) have criticized Dixon, he took this program to heights fans never could have imagined. Based on his comments to Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette, this move was not made out of spite.

Dixon is a great coach and a better man.  This is one hell of a hire for TCU.