Pitt Takes a Big Gamble

The dust has settled and 37-year old Jamie Dixon is firmly entrenched as the new head basketball coach at The University of Pittsburgh. <br><br> While the hue and cry has died down, the move looks more and more perplexing.

Dixon, a career assistant steps into a head coaching job with a top 10 program, a program that captured the Big East championship last season and the past two seasons has been to the sweet sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.

After being spurned by Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser, it appears that Pitt took the easy way out.

Hiring Dixon was a popular move with the Pitt players and it appeased the Pitt recruits. If the move was made for those reasons? They are the wrong reasons. Much ado was made about Pitt's heralded recruiting class and their dismay when Ben Howland left for UCLA. The fact of the matter is that those recruits were locked in at Pitt and if they wanted to leave it would cost them possibly one or two years to transfer to another school.

There is no question that Dixon a longtime Howland assistant is a talented young guy, but the Pitt program is not in the shambles it was in when the Panthers took a chance on Ben Howland four-years ago.

Dixon hasn't paid his dues as a head coach yet and he is handed a Big East coaching job. Dixon was interviewed for coaching jobs at what would be considered head coaching entry level positions at Texas El Paso, Wright State and Illinois State and was passed over for those jobs.

Pitt said it was conducting a national search for its opening, but the Pitt contingent went to New Orleans for the Final Four and really met with only two candidates. You have every coach in America at the Final Four and that is the extent of your coaching search? That doesn't make any sense. The fact of the matter is that I can think of at least eight head coaches who probably should have been contacted about the Pitt job.

Sonny Vacarro the adidas shoe representative who was so instrumental in bringing Ben Howland to Pitt and has been wrongful vilified after Howland left said it best: "The Pitt job is an attractive job after what Howland has done. They should be able to attract a top-notch young head coach. If they screw this up it is their own fault."

Pitt's interim athletic director Marc Boehm acknowledged the chance that Pitt is taking with Dixon.

"It is a hell of a gamble," he said.

It should not have been a gamble for Pitt; it should have been a slam-dunk.

George Von Benko


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