Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's wrong with Pitt basketball?

1.  Ashton Gibbs is having a subpar season.  I'm guessing the talk of Gibbs being drafted into the NBA has now stopped.  As I've said often, Gibbs can do one thing and one thing only- he can hit a wide open three when he can get it off.  That's it.  He's not a good defensive player, he can't make his own shots consistently, he's not very athletic, he's not tall, and he's not a floor leader.  To his credit, for most of his career he's been good enough at his one great skill that he was the preseason Big East Player of the Year and an All-American candidate.  But then the wheels fell off.  Gibbs' shooting went south and without that his other weaknesses have been exposed.  How bad has Gibbs been shooting from three lately?  How about 28.3% in the last seven games and 16.7% in the last four.  When your best player is playing so poorly then losses will always follow.

2.  Lack of talent amongst the upperclassmen.  Gibbs and Nasir Robinson are the Panthers two best players but let's be honest, on an Elite 8 team neither one of them starts.  Yes, I know that Gibbs is an All-American candidate, but not only would he not start on your average Duke or North Carolina team, they probably wouldn't even see the floor.  That doesn't mean they aren't good because they are, and they've both, especially Gibbs, proven over their career that they can play well against top teams.  But at the end of the day, when that's you're two best players, there's only so far you can go.

3.  Big misses on elite prospects.  I'm looking at you Khem Birch and Dante Taylor.  I know a lot of Pitt fans will never want another elite prospect now because of the failure of these two, but I won't waste my time telling you how ridiculous that is.  Taylor was overrated from the very beginning, but nobody cold think he would have been this mediocre.  He's not the most athletic player but entering Pitt he was considered a tough kid who should be an excellent rebounder and maybe have a decent amount of double doubles.  Instead he is in his third season with the Panthers and is averaging 7.9 ppg and 5.9 rpg. He's also just had one double double this season and scored in double figures just four times, with a high of just 15.

Birch was an aloof kid with a different personality that Dixon is used to.  In fact, if he wasn't hand delivered by then assistant Pat Skerry, I doubt that Dixon would have even pursued Birch since he didn't have the mental and physical toughness that Dixon desires.  But having said that, many national basketball writers I've talked to are wondering if maybe Dixon mishandled Birch.  That maybe Birch, because of his fragile ego, shouldn't have been treated like the rest of Pitt's tough guys are treated.  At the very least, Birch should have played early and often.  He's clearly better than anybody else at his position and he should have been allowed to learn on the job.  Not that Birch is some victim.  The truth is, he was at least starting and would have eventually got more and more time.  The fact that he quit makes him, well...a quitter.  And quite frankly, all the talent in the world can't help a quitter.

4.  Questionable recruiting/player development.  It's hard to say which is the problem, and to be honest, it's probably both.  But there are some players on the current roster that are starting to look like misses, or at the very least, has to make you worry that they'll end up as a miss.  Isaiah Epps is somebody that Pitt was on hard early, and offered based on potential.  Unfortunately, however, he committed two years before joining Pitt and to be honest in those two years he never developed as they had projected.  In fact, he's been at Pitt two more years and still hasn't developed into what they expected.  Cameron Wright, though just a redshirt freshman, is another interesting pickup because you wonder what the end game will be with him.  He lacks offense, and doesn't have a lot of upside, so you have to wonder what Pitt saw in him.  What's even more troublesome is that with his lack of elite talent he has still started when Travon Woodall was out with an injury.  Sophomores J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna are two more players that need to get better in a hurry.

5.  Lack of elite guards.  It sounds crazy with an All-American candidate and by this time I'm no doubt getting criticism for trashing Gibbs.  The truth is, I think he's a good player.  But if you want to have a truly elite team, and that's why where here right, then you need really good guards and Pitt doesn't have that.  Of Pitt's five guards, none are a true point guard.  None.  Even though four of them are point guard size and the one who is two guard size can't shoot.

6.  Lack of size and athleticism.  With Woodall in the lineup, the starting five goes 5'11", 6'1, 6'4", 6'5", and 6'9".  And of those four the only one that really can be considered any kind of top flight athlete is the 5'11" Woodall.  Gibbs, Patterson, Robinson, and Taylor are average athletes at best.

Summary-  Of course, I could go through like a statistician nerd and show you how the defense isn't as good, the offense isn't as good, the rebounding isn't good, etc., but it all comes down to personnel.  With the right personnel, all of those other things will take care of themselves.

At the end of the day, Pitt got to this point because of some poor choices in recruiting.  But the truth is, that happens with every program.  The only thing unusual about this situation is that it took Dixon so long for it to happen to him.  If you miss on your two big supposed stars, as Dixon did, you are obviously going to have a dearth of talent.  But that's about to change.  Center Steven Adams and point guard James Robinson are two missing pieces that will get Pitt back on track.  That's if Dixon plays them.  If he plays Woodall over Robinson, and Taylor or Zanna over Adams, then he's just going to have another subpar season, and this time he will deserve much more criticism.


  1. Just a lot of excuse making for a sub-par basketball team by a disinterested coach.

  2. Excuse making is blaming injuries or something similar. Saying it's bad recruiting and player development is blame, not excuses.

  3. Chris,

    Nice write-up!


    #1) - I tell Mrs. Moody the same thing - he can shoot if left wide open - cannot create his own shot off of the dribble - zero leadership and aloof - will be sitting on the pine in Europe next year.

    #3) - Taylor just soft - no desire - lazy, too many fouls, can't make FT's....other than that :) - will be alongside Gibbs next year in Barcelfreakinlona.

    5) - I like Woodall - I think that he was poised to have a real good year and may still. I highly doubt that Robinson starts over him next year.

    Zero excuse for the Wagner loss but when ND shoots 72% in the 2nd half....

    Anyway, I still think in the end, Dixon gets them going.

    The young kids get better, Ashton finds his shot - Woodall recovers and we get about an 6 seed and probably win a game or two in the NCAA's.

    But, the ship needs to be righted quickly and if we can't beat Cincy at home without that thug Gates, we unfortunately may be in for a very long season.

  4. Add Malcolm Gilbert to those being mis-developed. He was a top 60 player getting JJ Richardson playing time because Jamie fails to acknowledge Taylor's shortcomings.

  5. Disinterested coaching? What's your evidence of that, Tony? I seriously doubt that's the case, whatever else the problems are.

  6. Adams starts next year no doubt. If not, I will for the first time in his tenure have serious problems with Dixon.
    Johnson I think will be a wait and see guy: If he's the clear-cut better player, then start him. But I think Woodall's one of the better (if not best) leaders on the team, and if he starts but Robinson gets good minutes (maybe even overtaking him eventually) then I'm fine with that. (Of course, Tray unselfishly came off the bench his last year at St.Anthony's, so that's not unprecedented.)

    The last freshman I really remember starting from the get-go was Fields. Do you remember the circumstances at that point? Who was the incumbent/returning PG? I want to say it was after Krauser graduated, and Graves was the only backup, but my memory may not be that sharp.

  7. Recruiting is huge...

    Jaylen Bond - supposed to be at Pitt. Averaging 5 ppg/5 rpg as a freshman, shooting over 60% from the field. As a reason for leaving Pitt, he said, "I wanted more playing time". One of the reasons Birch left was playing time.

    So two prized recruits are gone. That's terrible and Dixon has to take that blame. If Dixon's trying to get higher ranked/better talented recruits, he needs to play them - given an equal level of work ethic, etc.

    Would you go to Pitt? Slow, no tempo game... Older, less talent players getting more playing time than you... Dixon seems to be able to maximize marginal talent, but can't seem to consistently fully develop the true great athletic talents (G. Brown). Imagine what Gilbert Brown COULD have been?

    Other coaches are using that against Dixon on the recruiting trail. Why would a top recruit want to come to program with a slow, lack of tempo game?

    The whole situation is becoming a joke. Dixon has developed the program from Howland, yes, but he hasn't been able to take Pitt to the "next level". They need to get someone in here that can. Other schools would have fired Dixon long ago for his team's performances in the NCAA tournament.

  8. To be honest, I'd start Robinson at the one and Woodall at the two with Johnson playing a lot as a reserve. Still too small, but at least everybody is where they need to be, and are more athletic. But Dixon still desperately needs to find a big, athletic two that can score. He's never had one and it's been a problem.

  9. JW:

    It's been a while, but if memory serves me correctly, Fields was backing up Krauser in his freshman season.

    You could tell, though, that during his few minutes that he would be a good one.

    I guess the question is, what makes this team worse than the 2009 team, which also suffered from some hideous performances before rebounding to a 2nd place Big East finish.

  10. "Other schools would have fired Dixon long ago for his team's performances in the NCAA tournament."

    Thats the stupidest comment I've read by far on any message board in a long time. Pitt fans should be thrilled--and 99% of them are--to have Coach Dixon leading the team. You can criticize players for being weak, but how about how weak some Pitt fans are who can't handle even one down year? Coach Dixon has taken Pitt basketball to the highest level its ever been, and I have no doubt that he will eventually get Pitt to a Final Four. There are only a handful of coaches I'd take over Dixon, and none would ever consider coming to Pitt.

    Pitt basketball is not a joke. Its in a down year, and the season has a long way to go. Who do you have in mind as the "someone" that can get Pitt to the next level?

    Oh, I think Coach K would dying to come up and coach in Pittsburgh so the first time he didn't win a national title disgruntled, uninformed, fairweather fans can run him out of town.

    Jamie Dixon is an excellent person and coach.

    Hail to Pitt

  11. S.R. i agree with you. Dixon recruited these kids and should be held accountable for that but to say he should be gone is ludicrous to say the least. he has proven himself as a head coach and this kind of season happens to all coaches sometime. we have been spoiled by the success the team has had and now since this season isn't going like that people are over reacting.

  12. Remember that old Seinfeld episode....

    Well, Dixon has become Joe Paterno. Underclassman ride the pine no matter how talented they are or how much upside they have. He bases playing time on how they practice. You make mistakes, you sit.

    OK....I was gonna say he's become Wanny...

  13. S.R.:

    If you lose, year after year, to teams that you're supposed to beat in the NCAA tournament, all the while being unable to land and develop more elite talent, tell me how that makes Dixon untouchable?

    He's lost 2 out of 3 recruits from the 2011 class (Bond and Birch). Dokish illustrates the growing pile of recruiting misses. Other commenters point to the lack of quality replacements with all the assistants leaving. Other posters point to lack of in-game adjustments. Other people point to the experience over talent when it comes to playing time.

    Jamie Dixon is a great person - and coach. But he seems to be a great coach of mid-tier talents that have excellent work ethics and existing leadership skills. The highly athletic, higher tier talents? Where is the pattern of success there? For the most part, those are the player Pitt will need to make the Final Four and win multiple championships.

    I think Pitt fans are (and should be) beyond the point of being satisfied with top 4 BE regular reasons, 22-25 wins (early season padding), and a potential run in in the BE tourney. Pitt has won ONE Sweet 16 and beyond game in the ten years. For the talk of an "elite" program, that is unacceptable.

    Tourney wins since 2000-01:
    Central Connecticut State (Round 1)
    Wager (Round 1)
    UCF (Round 1)
    Kent State (Round 1)
    Wright State (Round 1)
    Oral Roberts (Round 1)
    East Tennessee State (Round 1)
    Oakland (Round 1)
    North Carolina Asheville (Round 1)
    Cal (Round 2)
    Indiana (Round 2)
    Wisconsin (Round 2)
    VCU (Round 2)
    OK State (Round 2)
    Xavier (Sweet 16)

    Tourney losses:
    Pacific (Round 1)
    Bradley (Round 2)
    Michigan State (Round 2)
    Xavier (Round 2)
    Butler (Round 2)
    Kent State (Sweet 16)
    Marquette (Sweet 16)
    OK State (Sweet 16)
    UCLA (Sweet 16)
    Villanova (Elite 8)

  14. Or to rephrase the question, would you/we/I be satisfied with top 5-6 ACC regular season finishes, the rare ACC regular season title (competing with Duke, NC, 'Cuse), the even rarer ACC tournament championship, and winning one Sweet 16 and beyond game the next ten years?

    100% no.

  15. Dixon's postseason record is well-established and there is no point arguing with facts, I concede that Pitt has been a perennial disappointment in the tournament.

    However, my position is essentially that if you got rid of Dixon, the odds would be 3 or 4 or 5 to 1 that the program would go downhill and be worse off and we'd all be pining for the days of top 4 BE finishes.

    I think Dokish made a good point . . . if Adams and Robinson are sitting next year, then we have issues. I don't think either Birch or Gilbert were finished products, and while you could make the argument Dixon should have played Birch more to keep him happy, at the same time, if the guy is soft, that will show up eventually, so the sooner the better IMO.

    I also think one factor that often gets overlooked is senior leadership. Gibbs and Naz are not great leaders . . . guys like Wannamaker and Brown and even McGhee did a lot for the team in between games . . . practices are really important and senior leadership in practicing hard and keeping on the younger guys is a critical factor for success and that may be missing this year.

    I really hope Pitt turns it around, but one down year does not equal panic switch!!!

  16. Bond didn't leave because he wasn't getting enough playing time. He decommitted when birch reclassified and realized he wouldn't play. Birch caused the loss of bond not Dixon.

  17. Bond was never going to do well at Pitt. He was another one that had somebody meddling with him. He had a family member that handled his recruiting that was not rational. He thought Bond had NBA potential as a two guard and he didn't want him to be on the bench. His "people" thought he was a future NBA star and Pitt saw him as a development prospect. Whether they were right or wrong, Pitt was not unhappy to send him on his way.

  18. Who do you think should be the starting 5 right now? Is there a reason Moore can't be the two they desperately need. He has the size and has a scorer mentality. I know he's playing the 3 but he seem out of place there.

  19. He doesn't even have the handle and defense to play at the three, so I don't see how he would be able to do it at the two.

  20. I soured on Dixon after the Butler game last season when he looked clearly disinterested and oblivious to the major loss, just as he has had major losses at the end of every season. Those defending him think he is going to pull the rabbit out of the hat. It looks like a long basketball season and, you can be sure, Dixon will do the same things over and over again. Is Dixon interested in learning how to be a better coach? The ACC is going to eat Pitt up. We can all be glad that beautiful yet small basketball arena sits where our football stadium was and should still be. Karma is a bitch.

  21. I'm not suggesting getting rid of Dixon. But Dixon doesn't seem to be doing a very good job with this year's group and doesn't seem to take responsibility for it, just like he deflects his post-season failures. Dixon's defenders will be singing a different tune after a few sub-par ACC seasons. Given the way Dixon currently approaches his job, they are certainly in the cards.

  22. Disinterested? The head coach didn't care that his team had it's season upended? Come on.

    ACC will eat Pitt up? So, despite consistently being one of the best teams in the conference all of the experts consider the best, this new conference will "eat Pitt up"? Or is that what you want to happen because you don't like this basketball team?

    Why don't you travel back to 1993 and see how well this university was doing playing its games in the Field House and Pitt Stadium. From the lack of intellect in your comments, you probably are not old enough to have attended a basketball or football game in those venues.

  23. Jeff - personal attacks only make you look like a fool. Where are your arguments? You have none.

  24. An interesting stat; Pitt has never beaten a higher seeded team in the NCAA Tournament in it's history. Never...

    I agree with some of the posters here who are not satisfied with the late season accomplishments from Pitt in hoops. Dixon does have the great record of having the most wins in the BE since he became a coach in 2003, and tied the NCAA record for most wins in his first 7 seasons. But stiffs who plat D and rebound only will always bomb out when playing the cream of the crop.

    As far as replacing Dixon, it would depend on who came in. I may take some heat for this by I would trade Dixon in a heartbeat for Sean Miller. Miller has had some bad defeats early on this season, but wait and see where his team goes in March compared to Dixon's team.

    He already vastly out recruits Dixon and has more success than Dixon in the NCAA Tournaments he's coached in.

    As far as one comment about Birch....Dixon didn't need to play Birch to keep him happy...rather he needed to play him to develop him, especially since Taylor isn't any better and has zero upside. Seniority shouldn't play a factor here.....I know it wouldn't in the pros.

    I'm not sure Dixon understands the fast rise of true basketball talent. It's not like in football where it takes a lot longer in most cases.

  25. I think Dixon would win more games at Pitt, and Miller would have more down years, but I also think he would have more final four chances. But Dixon is just so good for the program that I would rather take my chances with him.

  26. Bowling Green PantherDecember 28, 2011 at 10:07 PM


    Truly appreeciate your work and thoughts. I have never posted before but really like your info and insight.

    I have never seen James Robinson or know much about him. But from your comments I take it that he is a true point guard... Do you see him as the ball handler and running the offense?

    I agree with your assessments and have to say that the biggest misses that have killed us last year and this year are missing on the point guard. With Knight, Krauser, & Fields Pitt had one of the best 10 years of point guard play in the country. Woodall is decent but not at their level. Epps was the next great thing but has been a complete bust.

  27. Robinson is the perfect Pitt point guard, and I'm not exaggerating. He is a solid 6'3", with exception defense, passing, and floor leadership. And he'll keep defenses honest with shooting.

  28. Doke, If Dixon ever learns how to get and develop elite talent, then I agree. It's a big if though right now...we'll know a lot more in 15 months though.

    The final measure of hoops coaches is Final Four appearances and championships. The regular season and conference tournament championships are nice eye candy though.

    I think I would prefer the alternating down years to pulling out what's left of my hair every March watching the current Pitt team. It's like I'd rather be a Steeler fan than a Ravens fan...gotta at least have that hope.

  29. Everybody has an idea of what makes a program a success. For me, being in the Big East and having such a major program, Pitt needs to try to win big as often as they can. Personally, I don't care if they go to the NIT from time to time as long they sprinkle in some possible final four runs once in awhile. It sounds selfish but winning 29 games every year can only be so exciting if you don't make it past the sweet 16.

  30. I Concur with Chris....Robinson is perfect for Pitt, and I think if he stays 4 years he'll be better than Knight.

    He's said to be the kind of patient guard that makes his team a lot better.

  31. Maybe I sit in between some of the opinions here, but Jaime needs a chance to adjust his system and way of thinking to more elite level athletes. It's not easy for him to just let guys like Birch, Moore, Johnson, etc. step in front of guys like Nas and Gibbs who have put in so much effort over the years. But he simply has to. He has to make that transition. I would add Patterson into that mix. He's a good passer and has a decent jumper, but he's a poor athlete with no defensive abilities. At least you can say JJ has gotten MUCH better as an on ball defender. He still struggles with team defense, but he's still improved. Frankly, without the reps, we aren't going to see dramatic improvement.

    I also think some of you are writing off Epps pretty quickly. Woodall is a talented kid, but he's nothing short of an awful defender and turns the ball over way too often to be a reliable point guard. I think Epps could also be that ideal pass first point guard that makes Jaime's system work. He certainly doesn't have the physical strength or composure of Robinson, but he's a good passer that at least in HS could guard someone. Jaime put Johnson and Epps in for 2 minutes in the second half of the Wagner game and they looked great. At least Epps can throw an entry pass. You can bag on Taylor all you want, but he can score a bit down low if anyone would get him the ball.

  32. I think Adams plays immediately. I have my doubts that Dixon gives the keys to the entire team to a true freshman in Robinson. I'm not too concerned about the future but they better grab the bull by the horns because Adams won't be here much longer than Birch was.

    Can you explain why Gilbert hasn't played more? is he still getting into game shape or hasn't he earned the trust of the coaches?

  33. Anyone who suggests getting rid of Dixon hasn't been a Pitt basketball fan long enough to remember how bad the program was before he and Howland got here. Also, they lack perspective. Every program has down years. Dixon hasn't had one until this year, but it happens everywhere.

    In terms of Dixon underachieving in the tourney, has anyone considered that maybe he actually overachieved in the regular season? Only two of his teams had multiple NBA guys in the rotation, and the first of those went into the tourney with a hurt PG.

    I agree with Dok that in order to get to "the next level" they are going to need to get elite talent, but I completely disagree that you automatically play younger guys because they are higher rated or perceived to have more talent. You have to prove it.

    No doubt, making that leap from coaching overachieving, but less talented guys, to elite guys with their egos and their sense of entitlement is a challenge. There aren't a ton of coaches who do so successfully. I'm willing to stick with Dixon regardless of the path he chooses.

  34. Chris, I like James Robinson too, but doesn't he have the same flaw as a lot of the Pitt guards in that he's not a gifted athlete, and not particularly adept at attacking the basket? He's a smart, hard-working, player, but not an elite talent. Adams will at least give them some kind of post presence hopefully, but without a driving threat they will remain limited. Hopefully Johnson and/or Epps can step up to fill that void.

  35. Two points:

    One, I'm glad the conversation is shifting to Dixon somewhat. He needs to take responsibility for what is transpiring this season. It's not just a "down year", perhaps because Pitt is playing all high-ceiling freshmen going through learning curves - this is just a bad team that resulted for a series of mistakes. Is Taylor really this bad... I mean he won the all-american skills competition as a high school senior... Anyway, with respect to Dixon's coaching career, if Dixon loses the vast majority of big games and gets out-coached by much less experiences coaches and other understudies, what does that say about Dixon? Who here is going to be satisfied with another decade of NCAA tournament losses to lower seeds? Yes, we need to be thankful to Howland and Dixon for building the program to this point. But, if Dixon can't get to the next level, then it's time for someone else to step in and build the program to a greater point. It can be done.

    Two, what about Durand Johnson - admittedly I don't know much about him, but I haven't seen his name mentioned much anywhere. Is he an option going forward?

  36. While I consider myself a casual follower of Pitt basketball, it seems that many of the players in Jamie's tenure were guys that took a few years to fully develop. There haven't been a great number of elite recruits.

    It seems Jamie's system is geared more to having players develop rather than stepping in right away. I say whoever is the best player should play, regardless of the time spent in the program.

    While Birch was starting, maybe he did deserve more time. From what I saw, he was the best at his position. Maybe his leaving can be attributed to both his immaturity, and Jamie's not playing him more.

    Possibly Jamie will have to adjust his system somewhat to elite recruits that show they are the best at their position.

  37. Durand Johnson is redshirting. We'll begin to see next year what he has.

  38. By the way, Robinson is definitely an elite talent. He's not an above the rim athlete but he's a pretty good athlete and his skills and strength makes him an excellent penetrator. He's basically a taller, more athletic Levance Fields and Fields could penetrate. Robinson will be even better.

  39. When is Coach Dixon going on the hot seat? I'm still waiting for a Final Four appearance after all these years. Why isn't he being held to the same standard as Pitt's football coaches? Granted his teams have won the conference a few times, but it's the tourney that really counts and his teams to this point have not broken through. How much more patience is allowed? I'd take a few Final Fours over winning the Big East any day.

  40. It's all a matter of coaching Philosophy. Jamte desperately tries to win the next game. If Taylor gives him a better chance to beat LaSalle than Birch, Taylor plays. Jim Calhoun on the other hand plays for March. If playing Jeremy Lamb in December gives him a better chance in March, Lamb plays. Over the years Jamie has a slightly better regular season record than Calhoun. Calhoun does better in March. Neither philosophy is wrong. It depends on your goals. Pitino plays for March. Boeheim is somewhere in between. Playing for March tends to make your recruiting easier for the elite player.

  41. Dokish, can you please put together an article that illustrates how long it took some of these great coaches to reach Final Fours. Pitt has been on the cusps and will eventually break through. Pitt doesn't have the basketball tradition or natural recruiting base to be an elite program, yet they are because we have a fantastic coach. Had Taylor and Epps panned out, this would be a better team. Recruiting Birch was probably a mistake but they weren't expecting him until the following year. They'll get back on may just not be this year. I'm willing to bet that this team improves before it's all said and done.

  42. Will Pitt have the patience? I love stability, but it's got to at some point produce results (aka Final Fours). Pitt has developed a basketball tradition under Dixon and does sit outside the fertile recruiting grounds of DC, Philly and NYC so it should be able to attract elite prospects (if Pitt can help them go pro). My point is why hold a basketball coach to a different standard. Heck, Wanny would have eventually won the Big East and landed a BCS birth if given more time. Dixon's already had eight years when most football coaches only get 4-5 years to prove themselves. Why?

  43. Maybe UNC, Duke and UCLA give a guy 4-5 years but that is the exception. If you are consistently a top 10 team and have high character, you are not going anyware. If he misses the top 25 or stops challenging for conference titles he'll be on the hot seat. He's the best thing going for Pitt in the last 30 years. If he is chased out of town because of one subpar season,it's a disgrace to the University.

  44. So how much longer am I going to have to wait to see a Final Four? Each year I get older and closer to death.

  45. I think travin Woodall is under rated as a point guard. he's crafty and can make things happen for others. with that said, I think Robinson and Adams will go a long way in helping Pitt not just get back to where they were, but improve them too. to be an elite teams, you need elite talent at the 1,3, and 5 positions. look at all the top teams and tell me I'm wrong. unless these two are busts, pitt will have elite talent at the 1 and 5 and, who knows, maybe Moore steps up at the 3 or Pitt lands a great wing in the class like jakarr Sampson. but until Pitt gets that, don't expect more than sweet 16's and 12 wins in the big east

  46. Could be next year. A lot of talent will be leaving for the NBA. This year was an aberration because of the pending lockout. Pitt will never pay elite money for an elite coach so firing Dixon will just create another debacle.

  47. I can tell you for a fact that many, many coaches and national media thinks Dixon does an amazing at Pitt, especially since he doesn't have a local recruiting area. In fact, Mike DeCourcy goes crazy on me when I question Dixon in the slightest.

  48. Pitt fans are notorious for succumbing to group think. Remember Wannstedt was a saint, then a bad coach, then a victim? Harris, who truly saved Pitt football from annihilation, became a villan because his agent dared to speak the truth. Hmmm, have we had a Heisman Trophy candidate since Harris? Dixon is a saint, walks on water, still trying to win the big game after the regular season. Last year after the Butler loss he looked bored almost. Say whatever you want but he is not doing a particularly good job this year. Furthermore, I see plenty of empty seats at the revered Peterson Events Center. Maybe he will pull the season out. Maybe not. He is no saint. He's not even an elite basketball coach.

  49. Dixon becomes elite once he makes a few Final Fours but he'll need better players at key positions to do that like was already noted. Recruiting those players is on his head. We crucify Chryst for missing out on some DE from Maryland but Dixon gets a free pass on his misses? Dixon consistently fails to deliver come tourney time yet he is somehow a great coach? Greatness is a serious word and shouldn't be used casually. Dixon is good but he can do better. There shouldn't be a double standard for basketball coaches. Get to the Final Four within the next 3 years or start looking for a coach that can get Pitt to that next level. Sorry Dixon lovers but the truth hurts sometimes. Jamie has to step up and deliver.

  50. For those of you who criticize Dixon (thankfully the tiny minority), who do you think we'll get if he were to go? What top program do you think we can be like? Set aside the historic top programs (like KU, UK, IU, UNC, UCLA) who can recruit both coaches and players on name. Of the remaining top programs all are associated with particular coaches who are synonymous with their respective programs. Unless you really believe Sean Miller would leave Arizona to come here, you're crazy to suggest we should fire Dixon. Enjoy the success he's brought here, and accept that every program goes through down years.

  51. Yea agree with last post, we haven't had a down year in over a decade. Let's be real and relax. EVERYONE has a down year, and maybe we are just due for one.

    Gibbs is not as bad as you all suggest. He will be fine off the ball moving forward. He will regain his touch, and we will win more games as a result.

    Losing Birch is the biggest reason this team has struggled. We are so bad defensively on the interior because Taylor plays so much. He is just not that good, and having Khem develop would have made us improve drastically on that side of the ball as the year went on. Now we are stuck with DT out there, and an undersized Zanna backing him up, and it is just going to be ugly.

  52. Bottom line on all of this situation is nobody realized how key Brown, Wannamaker and McGee were to this team. Three solid and pretty consistent seniors with a lot of athleticism. Unfortunately, the Taylor experiment wasted the last 2 years and is affecting this year as well. Birch was far better than Taylor and should have started over him. Also, this Malcolm Gilbert kid is a player and he should be starting as well. If you had Gilbert and and Birch in the lineup at the same time you would have 6 ft 11 and a 6 ft 7 player to your lineup. JJ Moore needs more playing time too. And speaking of playing time how come all these other schools play there kids lots of minutes while Jamie wants to switch them out every 4 or 5 minutes. I would thing it would take you 4 or 5 minutes just to get into the swing of things. Beyond this Pitt has no pressure defense like it used to have, and Pitt can't handle pressure defense on itself so there is the problem. In the past good rebounding kept them around and in the game. And oh by the way McGee although not much of a scorer was a good passer. So when the ball got to him he would kick it back out to an open play for the jump shot. For the rest of this year, play Malcolm Gilbert and forget about Taylor, and play JJ Moore. I'm not as sold as most on Woodall. I think there are too many turnovers there, but I agree Gibbs can't create his own shot.

  53. "Recruiting is huge...

    Jaylen Bond - supposed to be at Pitt. Averaging 5 ppg/5 rpg as a freshman, shooting over 60% from the field. As a reason for leaving Pitt, he said, "I wanted more playing time". One of the reasons Birch left was playing time.

    So two prized recruits are gone. That's terrible and Dixon has to take that blame. If Dixon's trying to get higher ranked/better talented recruits, he needs to play them - given an equal level of work ethic, etc.

    Would you go to Pitt? Slow, no tempo game... Older, less talent players getting more playing time than you... Dixon seems to be able to maximize marginal talent, but can't seem to consistently fully develop the true great athletic talents (G. Brown). Imagine what Gilbert Brown COULD have been?

    Other coaches are using that against Dixon on the recruiting trail. Why would a top recruit want to come to program with a slow, lack of tempo game?

    The whole situation is becoming a joke. Dixon has developed the program from Howland, yes, but he hasn't been able to take Pitt to the "next level". They need to get someone in here that can. Other schools would have fired Dixon long ago for his team's performances in the NCAA tournament. "

    Quite possibly the dumbest commentary I've ever read on a message board.

  54. McGee had athleticism? LOL...he had the worst hands of any big man I ever saw too...but he was a great defensive presence in the middle and got the ball out well to teammates. Solid in Pitt's system. I would take him every year if.....(see below)

    Pitt really needs elite talent at the 2 and 4 and can insert solid defensive players (stiffs) in the 3 and 5 who can rebound, like McGee and Jaron Brown would be ideal...and have a good point guard like Fields, Krauser or Knight who can go to the hoop if left open and knows how to distribute the ball. Robinson WILL be ideal there. Pitt has no like that now. No one...

    The 2 and the 4 is where Dixon needs to get 5 star talent. A tall shooting guard who can create his own shot and an athletic power forward who can score, block shots and rebound.

    I can dream can't I?

    Of course if Dixon screws up his handling of Adams (gives Taylor 30 minutes because he's a senior) and Robinson (why develop a future star now when you have a guy like Woodall) next year, that hope will forever remain a pipe dream....he'll never be able to fill those 2 & 4 positions with elite talent because he'll never see another top 40 player in a Pitt uniform.

    He already lost Birch who would have been that elite 4 because he insists on pounding a square peg in a round hole (Pitt already had 3 centers in Taylor, Zanna & Gilbert), but he has the rare (not since Smith) elite natural center coming in). Blair was an elite 4 IMO used as a 5....was only rated 4 stars, but I knew he would be elite...

  55. Great article, Chris.

    Pitt has such an also-ran look to them thus far. Taylor is just too slow on defense, which causes foul trouble, and with Birch at home clinging to Mommy's skirt, exposes a serious lack of depth in the paint.

  56. The team this year has been very undiciplined, losing concentration after showing, initially-in all three loses-that they were the superior team. This reflects on poor coaching, something that previously has not been the case under Dixon. I do expect them to improve as the year moves on.
    Bobby Knight's comment during the ND game were very insightful; I hope Dixon taped the game w/ audio so he could take Knight's coaching suggestions.

  57. Wow... There are some disgraceful comments from some football fans on here. Dixon is elite. Pitt is elite. Enough said.

  58. Elite? Pitt has NEVER been to a Final Four ever, and has NEVER beaten a higher seeded team in the NCAA Tournament. That's not elite.....better than average maybe, but not elite.

    Disclosure: I'm an equal fan of football & basketball with more of a basketball lean given the excellent playoff system of March Madness.

  59. 1. Talent level: True that Pitt's talent level is lower than Elite teams. But that has been the case most years, including last year, but excluding the year they had both Blair and Young. McGhee, Wannamaker and Brown would not have started on most elite teams either, and probably none (excluding Brown) would have been recruited by the top elite teams. You have to give Dixon enormous credit for getting so far year after year, without elite talent.

    2. There is no excuse for the tourney losses, but I am not ready to blame Dixon, particularly given how many last minute wins they have in conference over equal or superior talent. The Villanova and Butler losses were freak events, in many respects. Pitt normally is known for mental toughness, so these mental breakdowns are unusual and not representative of the team generally.

    3. James Robinson is perfect for Pitt, a tough kid from a great program. He and Adams are a great class, which proves Dixon can recruit.

    4. There is no doubt Gibbs is not playing well. But he is hurt and he is not a point guard. He is a catch and shoot undersized two guard with below average height and speed. When Woodall is healthy, Gibbs will be much better.

    5. Pittsburgh has weak local talent. Other than Blair and one or two other local players, there is nothing easy about being Pitt's coach. You have to go to NY, Philadelphia and DC, and outwork everybody else, which is exactly what Dixon has done. The miracle is not that Pitt hasn't gone farther, but how far they have gone with such weak local talent.