Tag:Jamie Dixon
Posted on: May 8, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 9:56 am

Big East coaches now in Maryland's sights

Should Pitt's Dixon be Maryland's number one choice?Posted by Eric Angevine

After being granted a contract extension, Sean Miller is staying at Arizona. That means the Pac-12 is safe from further upheaval for a while. The ballooning conference can focus on adding new teams and getting used to a new schedule without having to break in a new coach in Tucson.

That means the conference in the crosshairs now is the Big East, and why not? The always-tough league sent more teams to the NCAA tournament than any other conference this past season, and has become a hothouse for growing top coaches.

Three names come up most frequently now that Miller has withdrawn. Notre Dame's Mike Brey, Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon and Villanova's Jay Wright are the clubhouse leaders in the search at this point. Each coach has a spotless profile and a bright future, but they're hardly identical.

Mike Brey is reportedly meeting with Maryland officials next (though Brey is saying otherwise, natch, and Gary Parrish confirms) and he's a good choice. Brey's recent South Bend teams have been very efficient on offense, and Brey has done a masterful job of keeping his team relatively old. What does that mean? It means he uses redshirts wisely, so that when a player like Luke Harangody graduates, a player like Tim Abromaitis or Tyrone Nash is ready to step in and lead the team for another couple of years. Brey has a commanding presence, is well-spoken and would bring top-notch recruits to College Park. Brey is also from Bethesda, coached in the ACC as a Duke assistant, and has taken teams to the NCAA tournament nine times (Delaware twice and Notre Dame seven times).

Dixon, on the other hand, has been to the NCAA tournament eight times in just eight seasons as a head coach at Pitt. He's also 45, so he offers a younger version of the tough, grizzled coach Brey has become. Dixon has notched a 78 percent winning mark, which is better than Brey's total. He's never been to an NIT, and doesn't look to go that way any time soon. His teams are known for playing tough man-to-man defense, and he also brings in fantastic recruits. He just lost assistant Pat Skerry to Providence, so perhaps he'd like to make the leap to the well-known Delmarva recruiting grounds and nab an assistant who can help him return Maryland to national championship form.

Finally, there is Jay Wright. Wright, 49, is known for wearing nice suits and teaching a very guard-oriented offensive attack. His bombs-away style would be a pretty radical departure from Gary Williams' style, but that's not the worst news anyone ever heard. Wright has shown a propensity for building strong programs out of mediocre beginnings, as he did at Hofstra and then at post-Steve Lappas Villanova. Wright has been to the Final Four, which counts for a lot, but his follow up teams over the past two years have fallen progressively into the doldrums, with the 2009-10 version of the squad barely getting past Robert Morris and then being destroyed by St. Mary's, and last season's bunch barely making the field and bombing out immediately to George Mason. That apparent inability to capitalize on a supernova season has to hurt Wright's profile a bit. Nonetheless, he's the sort of coach who would bring a lot of hope to Maryland fans who are dying to get back to really competing with Duke and UNC on a regular basis.

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Brey got the first look, but looks to be bowing out of this wide-open search. With a little patience, Brey could find himself as the successor to his former mentor Krzyzewski some day - a move that could be made easier if he's a Domer instead of a recent rival.

Dixon really seems like the gem of this bunch. He's younger, he's experienced amazing success in a short time as a head coach, and he did it at a school that hasn't always been an elite destination. Whether he considers Maryland to be a step up from that or a lateral move may determine whether he even seriously entertains the idea of leaving. At his age, and with his resume, he could easily wait for one of the nation's really plum jobs to open up. Or, he could continue to turn Pitt into one of the nation's plum jobs. Dixon's motives and thought processes are pretty opaque to the outside world. It'll be interesting to see which way he goes.

If the Terps really want a young tyro with Maryland ties, they could always follow the suggestion of instant legend Grievis Vasquez, who apparently supports a movement to draft 28-year-old Terps assistant Robert Ehsan. It ain't gonna happen, but wouldn't that be bold?

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: May 6, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 11:07 am

Fruit of Gary Williams' coaching tree is unripe

Where are Gary Williams' top assistants?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Typically, when a long time coach retires after more than two decades at the same school, a comforting list of former assistants is trotted out, to give the semblance of continuity in the coaching search. North Carolina, in particular, has made a science of this, drawing clear lines from Dean Smith to any candidate who has ever come near Chapel Hill. Gary Williams retired at Maryland yesterday after 22 years, but he hasn't left behind much of a list of former coaching associates to ease the minds of his AD or fan base.

The list of possible high-profile replacements includes some impressive names. But it begs the question: is Gary Williams' coaching tree really so bare?

Honestly, the answer is yes, but not for lack of trying.

One of Williams' longest-tenured assistants, Billy Hahn, played at Maryland in the 1970s and was an assistant to Williams for 12 years before taking the head job at La Salle University. Before he could really do much to turn the Explorers around, Hahn became embroiled in a scandal - in which he and La Salle's women's hoops coach were accused of failure to report sexual assault allegations - which ended his head coaching gig after just three seasons. Hahn was out of coaching for three years before Bob Huggins took him on as an assistant at WVU, a position he still holds today. Hahn wouldn't be a top choice regardless, but the heat Maryland AD Kevin Anderson would take if he looked at someone with that particular baggage would make it an even less likely scenario.

The other long-time assistant Williams sent out into the world was 13-year Maryland man Jimmy Patsos. Patsos is about as connected to the local scene as a guy can be. A Massachusetts native, Patsos played college ball at Catholic University in D.C. and coached high school ball at Archbishop Carroll in that same city before moving just down the road to help out at Maryland. When he left, it was to take over Loyola University in Baltimore. Patsos has only managed a 70-82 record at the MAAC school, but his reputation for eccentric behavior may be an even bigger problem. It was Patsos who tried to stop visiting Davidson by double-teaming Steph Curry for an entire game in 2008, leading to a headline-grabbing 30-point blowout loss for the Greyhounds (but hey, Curry didn't score!). That same season, Patsos again drew unwanted attention when he elected to coach from the stands to avoid ejection after several run-ins with officials in a November contest. No winning tradition and a goofy public persona aren't likely to earn Patsos a chance.

In desperation, some turn to Mike Lonergan as an exemplar of a successful Maryland assistant. It's a tenuous, one-season connection, but sure. The only problem is that the Vermont coach seems about to be snatched up by another area school, George Washington. Making the leap from the Catamounts to the Terps would have been a stretch anyway, and there's no way Anderson is going to try to outbid GW on Lonergan, who would be more of a fallback position if the big names don't pan out in College Park. Speaking of local backup options, do you think Jim Larranaga's down in Coral Gables kicking himself right about now?
The other names that come up are a couple of not-ready-for-prime-time players in Dave Dickerson (former Tulane head coach, now an assistant at Ohio State) and Chuck Driesell (son of Terp legend Lefty, current Citadel head coach). Either could be a candidate down the road, but neither is ready right now.

Dig deeper into the time before Williams became Testudo's best buddy, and big names pop up. Rick Barnes (not leaving Texas), Fran Fraschilla (hasn't coached since 2002) and Ed Tapscott (an NBA front-office guy who's had some coaching turns) don't seem like realistic choices, but they do, at least, have ties to Williams. The most promising name from Williams' days as a Buckeye is Randy Ayers, who is currently an assistant with the New Orleans Hornets. A former collegiate national Coach of the Year with fresh NBA ties, Ayers could be worth a shot, even though he's not really a Maryland man.

Aside from Barnes, none of the men mentioned above is a first-call kind of guy. As Gary Parrish points out, the UMD brain trust is much more likely to go for the huge splash by trying to lure the likes of Mike Brey or Jamie Dixon from the Big East. Anderson should aim high right now, he knows that there aren't many jobs in the country that compare to what he has to offer. That means he can let his fan base daydream about young tyros like Butler's Brad Stevens and Sean Miller of Arizona without it seeming patently absurd.

This is likely to be the biggest coaching search of the year, and it will be very public and stressful for Maryland AD Kevin Anderson and the school's fan base. For those of us not directly or emotionally involved, it should be very enjoyable high theater. Let's pop some corn, get comfortable on the couch, and enjoy the show.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:46 pm

Pitt and WVU make Backyard Brawl a hoops thing

Posted by Eric Angevine

West Virginia @ Pitt, 9:00 p.m, ESPN

The Backyard Brawl is one of my all-time favorite college sports rivalries. Pittsburgh and Morgantown are so close to one another geographically, but they couldn't be farther apart in the way they approach these games. At least, that's the way it is in football. With just one meeting per year on the gridiron, and overlapping recruiting grounds in the coal country, the football version of the rivalry will always be more intense.

However, I interviewed John Antonik, author of a book on WVU sports history, a while back, and he told me that the home-and-home series for hoops has had its moments as well.

"You can go back to the late '60s," Antonik said, "and there would be a West Virginia guy setting up at the free throw line and a Pitt fan would throw a dead fish on the court. There has always been great tension in that rivalry, even when the teams were just OK or the players were unknowns."

"Just OK" and "unknowns" are not words we'd use to describe this rivalry in recent seasons, and that's a good thing. Despite an 8-6 mark, WVU is coming off a huge win over Notre Dame, while Pitt is trying to shrug off a setback to St. John's at Madison Square Garden from Saturday. A win in this game won't get Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers much closer to the top of the league, but it would definitely signal the beginning of a hot streak coming along at just the right time. Such a win seems unlikely, but so did the upset of the Irish.

In essence, you just can't bet against Huggy Bear, especially in a rivalry game. Watching him battle Jamie Dixon in a coaching throwdown is bound to be entertaining, no matter which team comes out ahead.
Posted on: December 27, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2010 4:04 pm

Game of the night: UConn at Pitt

Posted by Matt Jones

So it begins.  The stench of their putrid pre-conference basketball schedules is dissipating and the start of the daily grind of life for Big East teams is about to begin. Big Monday kicks off tonight with the special triumverate of Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery and Pittsburgh underachievement, as it is Jim Calhoun and the UCONN Huskies coming into the Steel City for the official kickoff of Big East play. 

This has been an especially sweet non-conference season for Jim Calhoun , as he has brushed off the whispers of critics who suggested that the glory days of Husky basketball have passed, and watched his UCONN team begin the season 10-0. Calhoun went to Maui over Thanksgiving with low expectations and a perpetual scowl on his face, and came back as Tournament champion, with victories over then-Top Ten Michigan State and Kentucky in the process.  He has watched as his star guard Kemba Walker has become a National Player of the Year contender, averaging 26.5 points a game and creating a set of highlights that has been unmatched on the national level.  For the first time in recent memory, Kemba Walker and his Maynard G. Krebs goatee have located arguably the coolest basketball player in the country in the decidedly uncool locale of Storrs, Connecticut.  And in the process, Jim Calhoun has become relevant nationally once again, and made his decision to "not give back one dollar" of his salary seem reasonable.

Meanwhile, our friends in Pittsburgh have followed a similar path to recent years under Jamie Dixon . They came into the year with high expectations and a mediocre early schedule, thus giving the Panthers a Top Ten ranking and the buzz associated with a 12-1 ranking.  Their early victory over Texas looks better and better as the season continues, but the beatdown at home at the hands of Tennessee gives Pitt skeptics (of which I am usually one) much-needed ammunition. Pitt once again has had success with balanced scoring, and hard-nosed defense, but this year has also added tremendous passing, averaging 20 assists a game and producing some of the best ball movement that Panther fans have seen in a number of years.  They come into tonight's game with UCONN still a bit of an unknown factor, looking the part of a Big East Championship contender, but with a number of questions that still must be answered.

Tonight at 8:30 we kickoff the official start of "games that matter" in college basketball and the winner of this game gets an early leg up in the Big East and potentially takes the mantle of favorite going into conference play. Outside of NASCAR, rarely does a sport begin its season with its most important event, but when the final tally in the Big East is taken, this initial game could go a long way in crowing the conference champion. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, it will be the first game that the CBS College Basketball Blog follows in-depth, a fact that has to make the Pitt and UCONN players even more amped up for the game.  At the end of the night, we will know which of these teams are contenders and which are pretenders, all the while being mesmerized by Bill Raftery's voice and Jay Bilas's fascinating hairline. I hope you are as excited as I know I am.


Crown the early Big East Favorite
2.  Does Kemba Walker Reclaim his spot as leader for National Player of the Year
3.  Determine the Status of the Jim Calhoun Smirk (continuing or wiped off for a night)
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com