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Home | Sports | College / NCAA |

Rumor Mill: Early signs in USC Trojans coaching search pointing to Pitt’s Jamie Dixon


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Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon reacts to a call on his team against the Connecticut Huskies during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. The Pittsburgh Panthers won 69-61. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon reacts to a call on his team against the Connecticut Huskies during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. The Pittsburgh Panthers won 69-61. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The USC Trojans’ 2012-13 basketball season is nearing an end. At that point, the athletic department can focus all of its attention on finding a full-time replacement for Kevin O’Neill, who was fired after opening the year with a 7-10 mark. It was not a truly awful start, but coming off the heels of a 6-26 season, athletic director Pat Haden simply figured it was time for a change.

Longtime assistant Bob Cantu has handled the team since O’Neill’s dismissal, and as of writing has the team standing at 14-17 overall, or 7-7 since taking over.

However, Haden is looking to make a big-name splash with this hiring. According to Big Lead Sports, current Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon could be that big name.

“At this juncture, I’m hearing Dixon is the primary target of the search firm advising USC AD Pat Haden on the hire. Although it hasn’t been confirmed anywhere (I tried the USC athletic department, no dice), Korn/Ferry is supposedly working with Haden on the hire, and leading the charge is Jed Hughes.”

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Hughes recently did the Jets’ GM search, and he’s a former NFL assistant coach for, among other teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hughes lives in Pittsburgh, and apparently knows Dixon well. The word on the street is that Dixon wants to get back to the West Coast.”

It is not easy, at first, to fully grasp why Dixon would want to make the switch. He has been running the Panthers program for 10 years, and in that time, Dixon has compiled a 262-84 overall record, with a career 115-57 record in the Big East.

But therein lies the biggest problem: Pitt, after this year, will no longer be members of the Big East as they make the switch to the ACC. The recruiting and the travel to take on far-flung programs such as Duke, Miami and Florida State may prove to be a few factors Dixon simply will not want to deal with.

This according to Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News:

Pitt has been able to visit New York, D.C., Philadelphia and New Jersey and entice recruits—most of them not at the top of prep rankings, but nearly all possessing the toughness and team-first character Dixon values—to play in a league they have known all their lives.

Take away the lure of the Big East, and those recruits might view Pitt as a less-appealing destination. The Big East not only provides the opportunity for a Philly kid to return home periodically for a game against Villanova, or to the region to play Seton Hall or Rutgers or even St. John’s, it also provides the thrill of ending the conference season at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament.

Really think there are dozens of kids from Jersey who’ll be excited about playing road games in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Tallahassee, Fla.?

Without a head coach or any real direction at the moment, the flailing USC basketball program would unquestionably hit a home run with the hiring of Jamie Dixon.

The questions then becomes, of course, who will be Pitt’s next coach, and what will be the next dominoes to fall after that?

MORE: Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is dating a pleasant-looking young lady

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