May 3rd Q&A
By Chris Dokish
Q: You wrote in the last Q&A that Dixon is not a great closer and he isn't as aggressive as some other top coaches. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great closer? I’m sure a lot of kids/families are different and want to hear different things, so how do these other guys close the deal? I read message board fodder about AAU and coaching connections, promises made, skirting the rules, etc.... How much do these things play into closing? And one last thing, will Jamie ever be a great closer? If so, what does he need to work on?
A: It's like any sales job. The great ones can sell ice to an Eskimo. Is it just one thing that all the best real estate agents or the best car dealers have? It's just that some people are born closers. It's a great skill. Do the great ones probably skirt the rules a little? No doubt. I'm not saying Dixon should do that, but some of the great closers know every trick in the book, and some of those tricks are a little shadier than others. Dixon has chosen to stay away from that stuff. Some may say he's taking a moral stand and some say he is making a mistake by not using the same tactics as everybody else. I guess it's just a matter of opinion.
But, also Dixon just isn't aggressive enough. Tom Herrion wanted Dante Taylor and Dixon helped close, but it was mostly Herrion who was responsible. Brandin Knight went hard after Isaiah Epps and Dixon helped close, but this time it was Knight who deserves the kudos. When a Rick Pitino, a Jim Calhoun, or a John Calipari closes on a kid you know it because the kid can't stop talking about. When was the last time a kid was gaga over Dixon? They like him, and they respect him, but there isn't fireworks. In Herrion and Knight, Pitt has two guys who can go toe to toe with some big time recruiters, but at the end of the day, they need Dixon to come in and put the hammer down. That's what the head coach does. The assistants set them up for the kill, but the head coach comes in and seals the deal. Bottom line, kids like Dixon, but then a Pitino or a Calipari walks into his house and the kid sees rainbows and puppies.
If you look at the low numbers of elite prospects that Pitt gets compared to other top programs, it's quite startling. Pitt lags behind quite a bit. But thankfully for Pitt fans, what Dixon gets out of his players is pretty remarkable when you realize how the talent level of his team often can't approach programs that are equally as successful on the court.
Q: What does is say that Dixon couldn't close out on Kyryl Natyazhko and Kevin Parrom, and that Pitt will now probably end up with an obscure undersized junior college player?
A: Well, first of all, the undersized junior college player is pretty good. But Pitt may not end up with him either because his academics are highly questionable. If they weren't, he would have signed somewhere already.
As for Natyazkho and Parrom, Sean Miller was all over those kids long before Pitt was. For the Panthers, they were back up plans that they suddenly wanted after DeJuan Blair left. Miller has been courting them heavily for a year. That's a big difference. Both are good players in the 75-100 range, and they would have helped this year, but I don't think the loss will go beyond this upcoming season. Pitt is the masters of getting players in the 75-100 range.
Q: Why isn't Pitt going after Lance Stephenson? It seems so obvious that they could use him and he seems desperate at this point to join a great program.
A: You're right. He is desperate. And there's a reason why. As one college coach told me when discussing Stephenson, "He's going to get some coach fired". Enough said.
Q: Did Darnell Dodson officially sign with Kentucky?
A: Yes. Thankfully. Now maybe the Pitt fans can move on. He's a good player that has taken on mythical proportions. But not everybody at Pitt thought highly of his skills, and that's a fact. And I was told that the new regime at Memphis had no desire to keep him. The only reason Kentucky wanted him was because they need players for this season. But one assistant coach told me last week that Dodson will hardly see the floor at Kentucky because he will quickly get recruited over. Bottom line, he is a good, solid prospect, but he isn't a future star.
Q: With Natyazhko and Parrom out of play, is it Kavon Lytch or nobody?
A: Lytch has academic problems, so from what I hear, Pitt is going to keep looking into the summer. If they still can't find somebody then they will carry it over to next year.
Q: You say you want a center and shooting guard for next year. Any names?
A: Well, they don't feel the center crop in the East is strong for 2010, so I'm not holding my breath on that one. You never know who they may unearth, though. As for guards, there are a lot of excellent ones out there and none have Pitt in their sights as of yet.
Q: For 2010, what do you think Pitt's chances are for these players- Adreian Payne, Will Barton, Doron Lamb, Kyrie Irving, Trae Golden, Victor Oladipo, Shane Southwell?
A: Payne- very slim
Barton- very slim
Lamb- very slim
Irving- very slim
Golden- very slim
Oladipo- too early
Southwell- too early
Q: One of the national networks just reshuffled their top 75 and Epps was not in it. What does that mean?
A: I can only assume that it means they are clueless. That kid will be a star at Pitt and he will be in the NBA.
Q: Mike DeCourcy ranked Pitt No. 11 in his preseason rankings and Andy Katz ranked them No.24. Are you just being pessimistic?
A: Pitt could very well end up No. 24 at the end of the year, and I would not bet against a Jamie Dixon team, but no way are they No. 24 in the preseason. As for DeCourcy, he wrote his preseason Top 25 when he thought Blair was returning, and then it was released and edited by editors after Blair left. So it looked like he had them No. 11 without Blair, but he actually had them No.11 with Blair, which I would have agreed with.