Dixon's Liking What He Sees

By Josh Herwitt - October 24, 2007

NEW YORK -- Not too many coaches have done what Jamie Dixon has done in his first four years at Pittsburgh.

The Panthers, in fact, are the only Big East team to have played in the NCAA Tournament the last six years and win more than 20 games overall and 10 in league play during each of those seasons.

Last season, Pittsburgh won 29 games, the second highest total in school history, while advancing to the Sweet 16 in San Jose, Calif.

But it was there where Dixon ran into an old friend in UCLA coach Ben Howland and a more athletic Bruin team that secured a 64-55 victory and sent the Panthers packing for home.

I asked the Pittsburgh coach about that game and his memories with Howland, who served as Dixon's mentor for eight seasons at Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh before heading for Los Angeles.

"We go so far back," Dixon said. "We were assistants together [at UC Santa Barbara]. It's a different thing since I always wasn't under him. When you're at Northern Arizona and nobody's making any money and you're winning six or eight games, it's not like we were saying, 'We really know what we're doing.'

"But that game [last March] doesn't feel any different to me than any of our games that we've lost in the NCAA Tournament. It just stings, but no more so than any other one."

As far as this year goes, Dixon likes what he has in his backcourt, which features sharpshooter Ronaldo Ramon and point guard Levance Fields, a stocky 5-foot-10 junior who can get to the rim and make the extra pass after averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 assists last season.

"I think we have more depth on the perimeter," Dixon said. "We've only practiced for 10 days now. We're still figuring things out. Every thing's going to fall in place."

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 02:33 PM on October 24, 2007

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