I've resisted the talk of Pitt basketball being in trouble because, to be honest, it was too early to make that decision. Some Pitt fans have a way of being pessimistic and thinking that everything is awful when it really isn't. And to be fair, Pitt basketball is never going to be awful as long as Jamie Dixon is the head coach. And I don't see Pitt getting rid of him anytime soon. I also think Dixon will win his fair share of games. But the time has come to finally say that Dixon may have seen his best days- at least on a consistent basis. The stars will probably align a few seasons, and he may have some impressive years. But that's probably the best that can be asked for at this time.
The player that broke the camel's back is Mustapha Heron, who committed to Pitt last year, and who could have brought the Panthers right back to prominence. Unfortunately, today Heron has opened up his recruitment and if history is any guide, he won't be back. At one time Dixon had commitments from Heron and Maverick Rowan, and was leading for Cheick Diallo. Will all three added to the roster, the 2016 class could have been a Final Four contender, and maybe even a favorite to go that far. Now the Panthers could likely struggle to make the final 25 in upcoming seasons, and beyond.
It took a perfect storm to get here. The move to the ACC did not help at all, but Dixon can only use that excuse so much. The problem mostly lays with him. His staff is weak, and the rest of the college basketball world knows it. One text from a college coach in the last few days read, "He must address the staff situation ASAP!!". Another coach texted to me about Dixon, "He has no lead assistant coach". Today, after Heron's de-committment was announced, a third coach texted me, "Oh my the roof is caving in at Pitt".
Dixon is not an awful recruiter, as many detractors claim, but he's certainly not a great one either. So the fact that he does not have one ace recruiter on his staff is inexcusable. Smoke Williamson is a good guy, and could be an excellent recruiter for some schools, but he's a bad fit for Pitt. Pitt is not going to get elite players out of Michigan. It's just not going to happen. And that's where Williamson's ties are. Brandon Knight is a good recruiter, but he's not the ace that the Panthers need. Bill Barton adds little on the recruiting trail.
It's gotten so bad for the Panthers that they're desperately trying to find starting players anywhere they can find them. Yes, some big name programs are going after players like Mike Thorne or Ike Nwamu, but they are looking at them as complimentary players. On Pitt, however, these two would be among their best players. Then there is any so-called "fast riser" they come across, which incidentally is another name for a player that wasn't good enough to sign before, but is good enough to sign now that you're desperate. The fact that Pitt is even trying to sign Marcus LoVett is all you need to know about how desperate things have gotten. And it's a trend that's been going on for a few years. Dixon's centers last year were Joseph Uchebo, Derrick Randall, and Tyrone Haughton. All great kids but all desperation moves by Dixon because none of them were very good.
I will end this like I started it. Dixon will still win games, but probably not as much as he used to win. He could always leave himself, but I don't see him getting fired in the next few years. However, with a new AD coming in, Dixon is finally looking to be less untouchable in the future. And the fault is mostly his own. He's lost his way. And since he's not somebody that's known to adapt, I can only assume that he won't find his way all the way back.