I’m going to start this by saying that Jamie Dixon is a very good basketball coach. Since becoming Pitt’s coach in 2003, Dixon has won over 300 games, won 2 Big East Championships and has been named National Coach of the Year multiple times.
Anyone that’s arguing that he’s not a very good coach would lose that argument. The fact that he’s had this amount of success despite not having “elite” talent is impressive. And remember, he’s won a majority of these games in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball.
Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. However, despite all his success, he’s never been able to turn those wins into success on the recruiting trail.
Since 2008, Pitt has only been able to attract six 4 or 5 star players: Dante Taylor, Khem Birch, Steven Adams, James Robinson, Michael Young and Damon Wilson.
IMO, with all the wins and accomplishments Pitt has compiled since 2003, the program should be able to attract more “elite” players than that.
I hear the reasons why it’s hard for Dixon and his assistants to do that: not enough local talent to draw from, elite talent is drawn to the national programs (Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Michigan St, etc), lack of success sending players to NBA, etc.
No doubt these are valid arguments but those are excuses. The current Pitt program should be able to recruit higher end talent. Period.
Whether it’s Dixon or his assistants, if Pitt is going to improve in the ACC and really make it to the next level, recruiting has to get better.
This isn’t a knock on the players but the majority of kids that Pitt gets are 3-Star players that aren’t recruited by the upper level programs. It’s a credit to Dixon and his coaching that he’s been able to get as much as he’s gotten from these players.
Here are Pitt’s recruiting classes since 2009:
2009: Dante Taylor 5-star player, Talib Zanna 3-star player (project that Dixon coached up), J.J. Richardson 3-star player, Lamar Patterson 3-star player (developed late, turned into a really good player)
2010: Isaiah Epps 3-star player , J.J. Moore 3-star player, Cam Wright 3-star players
2011: Khem Birch 5-star (was here parts of 1 year), Malcom Gilbert 3-star, Durand Johnson 3-star, John Johnson 3-star (transferred)
2012: Steven Adams 5-star (stayed here 1 year), Chris Jones, 3-star, James Robinson 4-star
2013: Jamel Artis 3-star, Josh Newkirk, 3-star, Joseph Uchebo, 3-star, Michael Young, 4-star
2014: Ty Haughton 3-star, Sheldon Jeter 3-star, Cam Johnson 3-star, Ryan Luther 3-star
2015: Jonathan Milligan 3-star, Rozelle Nix 3-star, Damon Wilson 4-star
2016: Crisshawn Clark 3-star, Justice Kithcart 3-star, Corey Manigault 3-star
Some of these 3-star players like Wright, Patterson and Artis had or are having nice career’s at Pitt. However, most of the 3-star kids aren’t going to develop the way Wright, Patterson and Artis did.
For Pitt to “take the next step” and have a real chance to be a player in March, they need recruits that are able to contribute from day one, not in year three and four. Those are players that have 4 and 5 star profiles. That’s a fact. For the most part, Dixon is hesitant to and won’t recruit upper-echelon NBA talent. He doesn’t want one and done players.
How the Pitt coaching staff is able to start landing these players is up to Dixon and his staff. Until they’re able to do that, Pitt will continue to be a program that wins 20 games (most of those wins coming from a bad non-conference schedule), pull a big upset or two in the conference and win a game, maybe two in March.
Anything wrong with that? Are my expectations too high? Maybe but I won’t apologize for dreaming/thinking big.