Dixon's ways won't get him into a mess

March 2, 2012 12:01 am

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I can't say I've always thought Jamie Dixon was a great college basketball coach. I was against his hiring at Pitt in 2003 after Ben Howland left for UCLA because he had no head coaching experience. But it didn't take Dixon long to prove me wrong. Although Pitt will finish a rotten regular season Saturday at Connecticut -- the first bad season in nine years under Dixon -- he is a marvelous coach. He will get Pitt to a Final Four if he stays here. He might even win a national championship. His approach to the game is solid.

I'm more convinced than ever about that approach.

Did you see the Sports Illustrated expose this week on Howland? It portrays an aloof coach who has recruited star players, then had a hard time disciplining them out of fear they would quit on him or leave UCLA.

The report includes stories of players abusing alcohol and drugs and fighting among themselves. Howland allegedly looked the other way for a long time, essentially selling his soul to win. The result is the program is in disarray. Howland could be fired.

That's not the Howland who was at Pitt from 1999-2003. That coach was terrific. He brought much-needed discipline to a program that hadn't made the NCAA tournament in six years. He taught mental and physical toughness. He taught defense and rebounding. Most of all, he taught winning is a team-first -- not a me-first -- thing.

I respected the heck out of the man.

I respect the heck out of Dixon, who learned as an assistant under Howland.

I asked Dixon about Howland and the Sports Illustrated story after Pitt beat St. John's Wednesday night. He was reluctant to say much without knowing more details.

He did question how the magazine could quote only one player by name even though it interviewed more than a dozen players and staff members from the past four UCLA teams.

First Published 2012-03-02 00:14:31

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