Pitt’s Dixon, other ACC coaches proving their staying power
The list of job openings to which Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has been linked is long and impressive.
There’s Indiana in the Big Ten and TCU in the Big 12. USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon in the Pac-12, and Tennessee and Missouri in the SEC.
There seemingly are plenty of reasons for Dixon to move his family closer to his native California for more money and prestige.
But Dixon, who turns 49 on Monday, has stayed put.
“The general (coaching) perception is you try to win and get out. That’s kind of what you’re brought up thinking: staying ahead of the posse when you have a breakout season,” said Dixon, who has won at least 20 games in all of his 11 seasons at Pitt and made 10 NCAA Tournament appearances.
“There’s a lot of good jobs, but this is a great job,” said Dixon, who was influenced early in his tenure by veteran coaches such as Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, men who made or still are making a career at one school. “In my mind, seeing those guys stay in the same place at the same time seemed like a desirable goal.”
Dixon belongs to an exclusive group of seven ACC coaches who have been at the same school for more than a decade, including two — Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (35 years) and Boeheim (39 years) — who rank first and second, respectively, in Division I coaching victories.
The other ACC coaches in that category are Notre Dame’s Mike Brey (15 seasons), Louisville’s Rick Pitino (14 seasons), Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton (13) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams, who like Dixon, is entering his 12th season at the same school.
Boeheim, Krzyzewki, Pitino and Williams are members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They have combined to win nine national championships.
“It’s incredible when you think about it, for one conference to have that,” said Pitino, entering his first season in the ACC. “It’s special.”
The ACC features more coaches with at least 10 years at the same school than the Big 12 (three), SEC (two) and Pac-12 (one) combined. The Big Ten ranks second with four coaches who have at least 10 years at the same school.
“That doesn’t happen much in a profession that can be really unstable,” said Brey, whose Notre Dame teams have made 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. “Guys have really established their culture … when you have your program set up and energy established. You go somewhere else, it takes a lot of energy to reinvent yourself.”
Of 351 Division I programs, nine coaches (Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Saint Joseph’s Phil Martelli, Davidson’s Bob McKillop, Oakland’s Greg Kampe and Lafayette’s Fran O’Hanlon) are entering their 20th season at the same school.
“I think all four coaches (Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and Pitino) understand why you win,” said Pitino, who turned 62 in September. “When you’re young, you think you invented the game. When you’re in your 50s and 60s, you understand why you win. Players are really, really important.”
Entering last season, more than half of the players who signed letters of intent in November 2009 experienced a coaching change.
When junior point guard James Robinson signed with Pitt in 2012, he credited Dixon’s with the program as a big factor in his decision.
“I had a lot of good choices. The coaching staff was one of the main reasons why I went to Pitt,” said Robinson, who selected the Panthers over ACC programs Virginia, Notre Dame and Miami. “In the college scene, there are a lot of coaches and assistants moving year to year. It was really important to actually have confidence the coaching staff is going to be there for the duration of your time there.”
Dixon said competing programs attempt to use his success — and thus the fact his name surfaces whenever high-profile jobs open — against him to recruits. Dixon, though, insists his run with the Panthers strengthens his resolve to stay.
“When I recruit a kid, it probably comes up more with me than other schools,” Dixon said. “I’ve always been questioned about that.
“I want to be the guy (at Pitt). I want to make this into ‘the’ job. That’s always been my job, to make it into that kind of job.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].