The Pittsburgh Panthers have had a strong basketball program for some time now. Even in the four years before current coach Jamie Dixon took over the helm, the Panthers were led by, now UCLA Bruins coach(And Bill Walton punching bag), Ben Howland to a 89-40 record over four years. In two of the four years Howland was the coach the Panthers reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. Not too shabby by any accounts and in fact, that’s what got Howland the UCLA job to begin with. In Dixon’s nine years, Pitt has been to the round of 16 only once but has had even more regular season success than Howland.
Hindsight being being 20/20, I don’t know how many people would rather be Howland at the moment. A Final Four run seems like the minimum requirement in order for him to keep the job. On the flip side, Dixon is continuing on his quest to record his tenth straight 20 win season and hopes to improve upon his teams performance come tourney time.
The parallels should stop there. Each of the coaches hone their craft on two different coasts, recruit different types of players, and are in the midst of different successes and failures. Howland is fighting for his job while Dixon is just fighting to stay an extra found in the NCAA Tournament, it is a big difference. So imagine my surprise when I heard an expert mention that Dixon needed to make a deep run in the Tournament or he, like Howland, would be on the hot seat.
Now, the expert is not the athletic director for Pitt. It was more than likely his way of trying to get attention to head in his direction. But if he truly believed what he said, or if it ever came across the real Panthers AD mind(Which it probably hasn’t), it shows how insane people can actually be. This goes for any Pitt fans as well. If any of you think letting go of Dixon would be a wise move, shame on you.
If you didn’t have this knowledge, please let me share it with you. Good coaches don’t grow on magical trees somewhere in rural towns. Every time I see a good coach gets fired, or even hear of his impending demise, I think to myself, “Who are you going to get better?”. Change for change sake is a horrible idea. I never understood why some people would want to run out a very good coach for the sake of doing it, especially since whoever you get next is going to be a downgrade. It’s like the folks who cheat on their spouses with ugly people. They are just cheating to cheat, even though it is clearly a downgrade and you’re not going to do any better than what you got at home.
Dixon is going for his tenth straight 20 win season. That is impressive no matter how you try to dissect it. I, as well as plenty of you, are as guilty as anyone for making fun of his teams for not doing so swell in the NCAA Tournament. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t an excellent coach that is one of the best in the country.
Is Dixon going to win the Panthers four National Titles, probably not. However, his good teams are very good and his worst teams are still very good. Would you rather be relevant every year and maybe lose in the second round or would you rather float around irrelevancy, because that’s where Pitt will be if they ever got rid of Dixon.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone