Pitt basketball's bungling of Jamie Dixon and Kevin Stallings gets dumber by the day
Former AD Scott Barnes, now at Oregon State, was responsible for the move
Athletic directors do dumb things all the time.
They extend contracts to four or five years to ensure coaches "can recruit and tell prospects they'll be there long term" even though anybody with half-a-brain understands no contract ensures a coach will remain anywhere long term. They often bid against themselves, which is never not ridiculous. And I can't tell you how many times I've watched an AD make a hire with no regard for fit.
It's just dumb things on top of dumb things.
My favorite example from the past year is Iowa athletic director Gary Barta allowing Fran McCaffery to sign a two-year extension last November that more than doubled McCaffery's buyout. Why in the world would he do that? McCaffery was coming off an NIT appearance and just starting another bad season. He had no leverage whatsoever. He had no comparable job offers or options. So all that totally unnecessary extension did is provide McCaffery with a questionable raise and increase his buyout from $4.6 million to $10.2 million -- meaning if Iowa wanted to fire McCaffery right now, after finishing 4-14 in the Big Ten, it would owe him $5.6 million more than it would've owed him before that stupid extension was signed.
Iowa benefitted from the extension in no way.
That's the long and short of it.
And yet the Iowa AD still offered the extension last summer and allowed McCaffery to sign it in November. Why? Because athletic directors do dumb things all the time, that's why. Someday, perhaps, I'll assemble a list of moronic decisions, at which point we can all laugh and cry together. And, believe it or not, that Iowa story will not top the list because this Pitt story will forever top the list.
Pitt's decision to lower Jamie Dixon's buyout in March 2016 to encourage him to leave for TCU after making 11 NCAA Tournaments in 13 years was dumb when it happened. It became even dumber when the school replaced Dixon with Kevin Stallings, who had made fewer NCAA Tournaments (seven) in more years (17) at Vanderbilt and was on the verge of getting fired in Nashville. Then it became even dumber when Dixon spent this season leading TCU to the NCAA Tournament while Stallings finished 0-18 in the ACC. Then it became even dumber when Pitt had to pull the trigger on Stallings earlier this month at the cost of what's expected to be $9.4 million. And then it became even dumber Friday when eight players were reportedly granted releases to transfer, if they so choose.
Scott Barnes is the man responsible. He's now the athletic director at Oregon State.
Here's hoping he doesn't screw things up there as much as he screwed things up at Pitt because, man, he really screwed things up at Pitt. He let a fanbase frustrated by a lack of deep NCAA Tournament runs forget that simply being relevant and making the NCAA Tournament nearly every year isn't to be taken for granted, and rather than publicly back his coach Barnes made it easier for Dixon to leave. What Barnes should've done is explain to Pitt fans that he'd love to be in the Final Four just like everybody else, but that moving on from one of the nation's best coaches in pursuit of that would be dumb and counter-productive. Instead, Barnes lowered Dixon's buyout and nudged him to TCU. And though I realize it's possible Dixon might've left no matter what, all that means is that it was doubly stupid to lower the buyout because it literally cost Pitt money it now needs. Barnes should've said, "Jamie, if you want to return to your alma mater, I understand. But I'm offering you a raise to stay. And if you still choose to go, I'll wish you all the best, but you'll be responsible for the full buyout as stipulated by the contract you signed." Instead, Barnes basically said, "Jamie, forget about some of that money you owe us. And good luck at TCU. Because you leaving is good for us. You leaving is good for Pitt."
Problem is, Dixon leaving wasn't good for Pitt.
Nothing that's happened since Dixon left has been good for Pitt. Friday just served as the latest reminder. The team stinks and now the roster is likely to be gutted. The program has essentially been hit with the death penalty, only worse. Because at least with the death penalty a program actually disappears for a year. No games. No nothing. Pitt won't be so fortunate. The Panthers will still have to play ACC games. So back-to-back 0-18 league records seems possible, if not likely. And it all traces back to March 2016.
Yes, ADs do dumb things all the time.
But what Scott Barnes did was the dumbest.
He did one dumb thing (lowered Dixon's buyout) and followed it up with another dumb thing (hired Stallings). And Pitt hasn't been the same since and probably won't be for a while, if not ever. Meantime, TCU will be playing in the NCAA Tournament late Friday. Jamie Dixon's Horned Frogs, according to oddsmakers, are 5-point favorites over a Syracuse team that spent January beating Pitt twice.
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