PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – The Jamie Dixon era as Pitt’s basketball coach has come to an end.
In a move that’s been speculated about for the last 24 hours, Dixon is heading back to his alma mater, Texas Christian University (TCU). He met with the Pitt players Monday afternoon to inform them of his decision.
Despite his departure, Dixon says Pittsburgh will always hold a special place in his heart.
“I love Pittsburgh, and I’ll always love Pittsburgh. My kids were born here. I’ve had a lot of opportunities, a lot of different jobs open up, but this one just felt right. The timing was right, and I’m very good friends with the [TCU] athletic director, the chancellor,” said Dixon. “It just felt right. We’ve had a great run here in Pittsburgh, and I think Pitt’s in a great place, too. We’ve got five of our top seven, seven of our top nine coming back on an NCAA Tournament team. And, I also think, Brandin’s ready to become the head coach.”
Listen to KDKA-TV Sports’ Bob Pompeani’s full interview with Jamie Dixon:
At a press conference, Pitt Athletic Director Scott Barnes said the university was prepared to keep Dixon had the TCU job not opened up.
“You think about the position we currently sit in – six of our top seven scorers are back, fresh off an NCAA Tournament berth, albeit a loss to Wisconsin that was not pleasant for anybody. We are beginning to turn the corner here,” said Barnes.
In a statement, Barnes went on to thank Dixon. It reads in part: “On behalf of the University of Pittsburgh, I want to thank Jamie for his tremendous service to not only Pitt basketball but our entire institution. His impact on our university went well beyond his coaching responsibilities. Jamie has always represented Pitt, and the game of college basketball, in exceptional fashion. For all of these things we are eternally grateful.”
Barnes goes on to say in the statement, that the university is now turning their attention to finding a new coach.
It said: “Our focus now turns to securing new leadership for our basketball program. This provides us with the opportunity to find an individual who will maintain, and build upon, our stature as a perennial NCAA Tournament program.”
This really start developing when Dixon’s camp got the feeling that Pitt’s administration wasn’t going to block him leaving, something they’ve done multiple times in the past.
Back in 2013, USC showed interest in hiring Dixon, which resulted in then-athletic director Steve Pederson signing Dixon to a new 10-year contract.
A source close to the basketball program tells KDKA that the new Pitt administration privately felt that a fresh start for both sides was probably needed.
Dixon has been the basketball coach for Pitt since 2003. Thirteen years is a long time, and many Pitt people felt a fresh start and fresh ideas were probably needed.
The 50-year-old coach compiled a record of 328-123 while at Pitt and was named National Coach of the Year. He is the first and only head coach in Pitt’s history to lead his team to seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
The criticism of Dixon has always been his ability to win in the NCAA Tournament. Pitt has always been a very good regular season team, but that success didn’t translate to wins in March.
In fact, Pitt hasn’t won a first round NCAA tournament game since 2009. His last game at Pitt was an ugly one, losing to Wisconsin in the first round 47-43.
In a statement, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said: “For 17 years, 13 as head coach, Jamie Dixon has been a remarkable ambassador for the University of Pittsburgh. He was a great leader who cared deeply for our student-athletes and our entire basketball program. I can appreciate that the rare chance of coaching for your alma mater does not come up very often and is hard to pass up, but we will miss him here at Pitt. We wish him the best and we now turn our attention to advancing our program, building on the solid foundation Jamie left us.”
Dixon is returning “home” to TCU, where he played his college basketball from 1984-87.
TCU is considered a very challenging job, probably one of the most difficult in all of college basketball.
However, the school just built a new $250 million basketball arena and Dallas is a place that produces a lot of high level D-1 talent. The question is – will Dixon and his staff be able to recruit that talent to TCU?
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports first tweeted Sunday that the Dixon may make a move to his alma mater.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 20, 2016
Parrish joined “The Fan Morning Show” Monday to further discuss the Dixon situation. He confirmed that Dixon has been interested in the job, as originally reported.
Parrish said he thinks that Dixon could have been motivated by a desire to feel more appreciated, and that Pitt’s move to the ACC and change in administration may have showed some discontent for him as well.
Parrish did not, however, believe that Dixon was motivated by worries about his job security.
“You’re not at risk of being fired,” Parrish said of Dixon. “I don’t even think Pitt could fire you if they wanted to from a financial perspective. So, this isn’t like, you’d better get out or you’ll be fired next year. It just comes down to, how attractive is possibly more money – but hopefully not less – with a fresh start, fresh expectations?”
Parrish also noted that Dixon wouldn’t be taking a pay cut to return to his alma mater. He’d get at least as much money as he’s getting from Pitt now, if not more.
“I was told definitively that Jamie would not be asked to leave money on the table,” Parrish said.
Listen to the interview here:
This comes following TCU firing Trent Johnson last week, and Pitt losing to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament.
A source told CBS Sports that TCU is willing to “make the money right,” as Dixon has a long-term contract with Pitt.
Sources told 93-7 The Fan’s Colin Dunlap that that Dixon may be seeking to help TCU raise its profile during a crucial coaching search.
CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein appeared on CBS Sports Radio’s “Tiki and Tierney” Monday.
“Jamie has told confidants that he feels it is time to move on from Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh’s geographic recruiting footprint has changed a lot since Pitt went from the Big East to the ACC,” he said.
Our partners at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that Dixon makes about $3.2 million each year and his contract has a buyout believed to be in the $10 million range.
Stay tuned to KDKA and 93.7 The FAN for all the latest news.