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Dixon deal makes sense

Commentary

March 29, 2013
By Neil Rudel (nrudel@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Some recent news items in sports worthy of comment while hoping I won't need gloves for the Curve-Pirate exhibition:

ITEM: Jamie Dixon signs 10-year extension at Pitt.

This may not be viewed as great news by some Panther fans, particularly with lower seeds than Pitt still alive in the NCAA Tournament.

There's no question Dixon has done an outstanding job during his first decade at the Pitt helm, going 262-86 and being named national coach of the year in three different seasons by various organizations.

There's also no question Dixon's teams have failed to match their regular-season success when March Madness kicks in.

Since programs like the one Pitt wants to be are judged on how they do in March, it was a little surprising that Pitt extended Dixon another 10 years a day after the Panthers laid their latest NCAA egg, this time against Wichita State. Five years may have been more understandable.

Then again, those dissatisfied with Dixon should be careful for what they wish. There's really only one candidate out there who might have interest in Pitt and who would excite the fan base more than what it already is. And that's Sean Miller, who has done a bang-up job at Arizona and has a better NCAA resume than Dixon between his work in Tuscon and previously at Xavier.

But Miller, the former Pitt point guard, is friendly with Dixon, respects him and doesn't seem interested in hastening his departure.

Dixon, 47, says he's happy at Pitt and would like to finish his career there. With the new challenge of the ACC looming, he's at a point that unless he leaves soon, he might as well stay where he and his family are comfortable.

Of course, getting to a Final Four - and beating a higher seed, something he's yet to do - will make Dixon and everyone else more comfortable.

One glaring common denominator in Dixon's teams are a lack of consistent outside shooting and up-tempo offense which give way to a defensive style. Ironically, in 2009 when Pitt was good enough, when it had NBA players DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, it was denied a trip to the Final Four because it couldn't stop the ball and Villanova's Scottie Reynolds in the closing seconds.

It will be curious whether Dixon improves his March performance over the next decade by loosening up when it really matters and whether he'll fulfill the contract, which now runs through 2023.

Either way, he's earned the right to find out.

Or we could put it another way: If Penn State's coach - be it Pat Chambers or his successor - goes to nine NCAA Tournaments in 10 years and then stubs his toe repeatedly on the bracket, it's hard to believe anyone would complain.

ITEM: FGC has local connection.

Florida Gulf Coast has been the talk of the NCAA tourney, and it would only be too cool to see the No. 15 seed take out Florida tonight.

Its coach, Andy Enfield, grew up in Shippensburg, but his father, Bill, was a 1958 graduate of Bellwood-Antis.

ITEM: Dean Rossi named new Huntingdon AD.

I'm not sure how long Rossi will stay with the Bearcats, but if he does half the job he did at Hollidaysburg, Huntingdon won't regret the hire.

Rossi hired and mentored more good coaches and did as much to grow his school's athletic facilities as any athletic director in Blair County history.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com. You can also follow him on Twitter@neilrudel.

 
 

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