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Some quick thoughts and notes on Jamie Dixon's potential jump to TCU

By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 years ago


Jamie Dixon (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

HERE ARE A FEW UPDATES FROM THIS MORNING....

1) Jamie is legitimately considering this move. But people around him still say he will ultimately decide to stay. He is being emotional right now, he is hurting after the loss to Wisconsin and the criticism but when it comes to signing the papers and making a decision, most people around him say he will not be able to pull the trigger and leave Pitt. It will be interesting to see if it all comes together and I’ve had some conversations since this morning that lead me to believe that he COULD leave (whereas yesterday most people said ”no chance’) but the feeling is he isn’t going to be able to leave.

2) Pitt would actually ultimately agree to negotiate the buyout down with TCU if he wants to leave. I didn’t think they would, but it makes sense to — why do you want a disgruntled employee or a guy whose heart is elsewhere hanging around. By negotiating the money with TCU, it makes the process go quicker, and Pitt will still end up with a nice chunk of change to pay the next guy. The bottom line: if a guy is ready for a change or wants to move on, to hold him hostage by not negotiating his buyout down creates a bad atmosphere that would only become a disaster. And here is one other thing to consider: if Jamie wants to leave, it takes Pitt off the hook for the final five years of his contract.

3) One thing that is a factor is that Jamie has essentially been allowed to call all the shots in his program and run things his way with little or no interference from above. That includes things like scheduling and staff hires. But some of that complete autonomy was being reeled in because there is a new administration and because there had been some slippage in the program and in attendance. Again, not a huge deal, but it is a change and a little bit of an adjustment. Jamie was not happy and talked about leaving one time before over similar issues after Jeff Long handed him some home-and-home series he didn’t exactly want. But Long left soon thereafter and Dixon’s guy Steve Pederson was hired, so all was smoothed over.

4) And this is just to feed the monster: Scott Barnes and Sean Miller have a very good relationship....

Here is what I wrote earlier.......

Oh boy, well, I was gonna wrap up the season and look ahead in today’s blog post but noooooooo…….

By now you have all heard the news – that Jamie Dixon has been offered the TCU job and is – at least on some level – negotiating with the school as he has real interest in it. This was first reported by Gary Parrish and then the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Here are some things:

1) Let’s first start with this – Jamie Dixon has no leverage with Pitt like he has in the past. That’s what makes this one a little different than all the other flirtations with other jobs in the past. He isn’t in the middle of a run when Pitt has been one of the best teams in the country like he was from 2003-2011. And he isn’t getting a new deal, he isn’t getting more years or more money and the administration had already told him they were going to give him some facility upgrades and do some things cosmetically to update Petersen Events Center.

So if he isn’t getting more money and the school has already promised him a facilities upgrades – why do this flirtation? Pretty much every other job that his name was involved in, I could have told you there was zero chance he was taking the job. In the past, he was looking for extensions, more money for assistants, a raise, some facilities updates and he got all that. But in this case, none of that really is in play.

So this is what leads me to believe that there is at least SOME possibility he could actually leave. The one thing, perhaps he could be looking for: he wants to make decisions about his staff on his own and not with marching orders from above.

2) That being said, I have not heard one person from Jamie’s circle that I’ve talked to that has said to me “you know, this is a real possibility.” Not one. Most have said this is not likely to happen and one even went so far to say this is Jamie’s “annual cry for love and attention after a hard loss in the NCAA tournament.” So again, all of the information coming out is coming from the TCU side and it sounds like – if you read the stories – these are things coming from people within the athletic department. That is a very strange dynamic to me – usually there is info coming from both sides.

But again, I haven’t found one person on this side who I’ve talked to that have said “yes, this is a real possibility.” But I am going to keep digging and keep making calls. I did have one person surprise me today by changing from ””no way” last night to ”well, this might actually happen, though I still think it is a long shot” so we shall see. It is just a very strange coaching search story in that all of the info suggesting it could happen is coming from one side.

3) TCU is not a better job than Pitt. Yet. This is something Pitt fans are having a hard time with “well, why the heck would he go to TCU it is a wasteland!!!” And they aren’t wrong based on history. But they are thinking of this the wrong way --- TCU was a wasteland but by all accounts they want to be good and have made an investment in being good. They now have one of the best facilities in the Big 12. They are willing to pay the money to get a top-level coach. They are offering him a lot to go hire assistants, and let’s not forget there are lots of players in Dallas, Houston and Texas in general so there is a recruiting base there.

It is very clear that if that school puts its mind to something and wants to be good (think football), it will go all out to be good. You might say “you can’t change a program overnight” but let me throw this out to you: Pitt was an awful job in 1998 but by 2002 it was a very good job. What changed? Simple – Petersen Events Center and an investment in the coaching staff and recruiting budget.

I know Ben Howland was a great coach – if Pitt was still playing in Fitzgerald Field House, he might still be Pitt’s coach and be a guy who gets to the NCAA tournament just enough to keep his job. Moving into Petersen Events Center made Pitt a big-time program in the 2000s. TCU is trying to do the same thing – and Dixon has experience in this kind of a rebuild.

4) The money is a lot, and this is another thing that makes me wonder how viable this even is.

From what I’ve been told, Dixon’s buyout is somewhere between $1.25 million and $1.5 million for every year left on his contract. Dixon’s compensation last year was $3.2 million but there were some bonuses in that. From what I can tell from reading through his tax documents, his compensation package annually is closer to $2.6 million (his base salary is about $1.5 million). Either way, TCU is going to have pony up somewhere between $20 million and $30 million to make this happen. That’s a lot of money for a school to shell out for a coach, even one that has money. Now, that being said – it goes back to what I said before: if TCU wants to be good, that’s the cost of being good.

5) Scott Barnes really likes Jamie Dixon. Scott Barnes wants Jamie Dixon to be the coach for a long time. He knows he has a really good coach and a program that is far more successful than most. That being said, Dixon isn’t Barnes’ guy and while that dynamic doesn’t always mean a lot – it is a dynamic. And Barnes is a basketball guy, who has been an AD in the Pac-12, the Mountain West and has worked at several other stops. He has also served on the NCAA tournament committee.

So my guess is Barnes has met a few coaches along the way and would love to be able to make his first signature hire. That’s not to say he wants Jamie to leave, not at all, but it is to say that his motivation to do everything in his power to keep Jamie around is not the same as Steve Pederson’s was.

I’m sure they will fight to keep Jamie Dixon – but they won’t throw money at him because he hasn’t earned more money. I think Pederson did what he thought he had to do to keep Dixon around by giving him a 10-year deal, but this isn’t the same situation. I don’t think Pitt would negotiate with TCU about the buyout, though, because Pitt wants Jamie to stay. I keep reading that TCU is possibly looking to negotiate a buyout. What exactly is Pitt’s motivation for that?

6) People say “why would Dixon want to undertake a rebuilding job at this stage?” – and the quick and easy answer is like most coaches, he may be ready for a new challenge.

And the standard isn’t very high there – Trent Johnson was 8-64 in Big 12 in four years. Jamie won 9 conference games this year alone.

In short, if he wins at TCU on the level he has at Pitt, they will build statues to him. And here is the other thing – it is pretty clear that Jamie was going to need to make some changes to his staff and it wasn’t going to be an option. And I’m not sure he wants to do that, at least not on someone else’s terms. And while that may be a minor thing, it adds to this “I’m not appreciated at Pitt even after all I have done” narrative that seems to be emerging. 

7) Please remember in every coaching search: EVERYBODY IS LYING TO YOU.

I’ve already read several versions of the story that cite “minor details need to be worked out” and “there are a couple of minor issues to work out” and “there are some things to negotiate.” All of that is code for either “the deal is done and now Dixon just needs to say yes or no” or “the deal is nowhere close and the administration wants to appease its fans and make it seem like they are doing everything in their power to make it happen.”

Either way, they are a very nice way of saying “we aren’t sure what is going to happen but need some wiggle room in case the deal falls through.”

Believe me – I have been through enough of these things covering Pitt to know that anything can happen and nothing is a done deal until there is a news conference. So don’t get frustrated if the story keeps changing or seems like the reports are conflicting – sourcing on these things can be tricky.

Stay up to date by following Paul Zeise on Twitter @PaulZeise.