Dixon Gets 2-Year Extension

For those who believed that Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon played his hand perfectly, getting his name linked with the open Oregon coaching position and then using that to secure a two-year contract extension from the Panthers, the seven-year head coach said that couldn't be further from the truth.

Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson added that he initially approached Dixon sometime during this past hoops season and wrapped up the talks this week. As for the timing of Wednesday's press conference to announce the extension, it was the only available time where both were in town. And while some might have been nervous about Dixon's status the past couple days, Pederson says he was not.

Dixon officially signed the contract extension, which will keep him at Pitt at least through the 2017-18 season, Wednesday. He and the Panthers' coaching staff leave for the Final Four Thursday.

"Jamie and I started this discussion some time ago, but in typical fashion the discussion was to get through the season, put that behind us and then bring this all to closure,'' Pederson said. "(Like past extensions), Jamie has never come to us and has never asked for anything. He didn't come to us.

"We went to him and told him that we'd like him to be the coach here for a long time and have continued to work with him to build what's become one of the elite programs in college basketball. (And) he has always been an absolute Pitt guy since the day he arrived on campus (11 years ago with Ben Howland).''

While Dixon's name has been linked to various coaching openings over the years, he reportedly was a front-runner for the Oregon job with its potential huge payday and was asked about that recently on local radio station 97.3 The Fan. Dixon gave his usual vague answer.

This ignited speculation about his status at Pitt. Dixon gave a more succinct response Wednesday that could have precluded any doubt.

"I just can't say thank you enough to the administration, and I know how lucky I am,'' Dixon said. "I know that certain things get talked about and different things, but I've told Steve and Jerry Cochran that I'm not going anywhere.

"This is where I want to be, and this is where I always hoped to be. So, I don't know why we're here today, but I'm happy to be at Pitt. I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I recognize it every day.''

Dixon and Pederson reiterated that while the two basically agreed to an extension during the season, nothing was finalized until Wednesday. He was asked about the radio interview and said he was referring to two friends being fired (the coaches at Holy Cross and Hawaii).

"I know where I want to be, and I've said that from the beginning,'' Dixon said. "And sometimes I might not make that as clear as I need to be. ... But my actions have been more reflective about how I feel, so I would hope people would go by them.''

Pederson believed the speculation caught fire so quickly because of the stature of the Pitt men's basketball program now.

"Pitt is such a national power now that it becomes a bigger story,'' Pederson said. "(But) I think it's escalated now that what's going on here is so important at every juncture, and we love that. That's why we've been sold out every game since we moved into the Petersen Events Center.''

Dixon still refused to discuss the Oregon rumors, but he added that he tells Pederson and Cochran that he's happy at Pitt. He just didn't make that clear enough during the radio interview.

"I've been here 11 years, so I don't know if these things will ever stop,'' Dixon said. "There's no coincidence that our leadership, Jerry Cochran and Steve Pederson, started at the same time, and who you work for is the most important thing in this business. And it's the most important thing to me.''

Dixon also noted that he expected his entire staff to return intact next season.

"I hope they do,'' Dixon said. "But I also know that I have coaches who want to be head coaches (some day), and I want assistant coaches who want to be head coaches. I think that's how you get the best guys. ... People want to hire guys from the University of Pittsburgh now.''

Dixon cited the recent success by Mike Rice winning championships at Robert Morris and Joe Lombardi reaching the Division II title game at IUP, as well as the accomplishments by Barry Rohrssen at Manhattan.

Note: Dixon said he'll be rooting for the Big East to be successful this weekend even if he has a friend coaching the other team.

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