Q&A for 2/4
By Chris Dokish
Q: Okay, what's the problem with the Panthers? Why are the wheels falling off after it was looking like we were going to have a magical season?
A: The problem is the same as I've said all along. Their talent level is not very high right now. I knew when they got hot at the beginning of the conference schedule that people would eventually get disappointed and therefore get angry. All of the talk about this team getting to the Sweet 16 and beyond was ludicrous. There was not one one knowledgeable college basketball observer who thought the Panthers would continue at that pace because the talent level just isn't there. They only have decent talent. It's the excellent coaching that fools some fans into thinking the talent level is higher than it is.
At the beginning of the season I said that Dixon would be a miracle worker if this team won 20 games and he is going to win more than that. So the fans need to be rational and realize that this is their level and it's not this program's destiny to always be excellent. Your team is going to win 20+ games in a down year. Consider yourself fortunate because more historically successful programs than Pitt has had worse down years over the past decade.
Q: Okay, I admit it. You were right. The recruiting did us in. How did that happen?
A: Because Jamie Dixon is not God? I know it's hard for some fans to comprehend but the guy is not perfect. He is an excellent coach and you can't find a better ambassador for the program. But everybody makes mistakes. He took some iffy prospects and now he's paying for it. But he will have this program great again soon so don't lose hope.
Q: What did you think of Tom Herrion getting hit at the WVU game and what was it? I heard a quarter but it looked white. An ice cube?
A: Like everybody else I thought it was a disgrace. I actually had a chance to ask Herrion today what it was and he said it was a quarter so that really had to hurt. He's a man who is really tough as nails as you could tell from that incident.
Q: Is Dante Taylor the biggest waste of a recruit ever?
A: That's ridiculous and that's exactly the kind of talk that makes kids transfer. It's no secret that I give a lot of constructive criticism to players, but I at least wait until their second year in the program before I start expecting anything, and it's not until their third year that I expect them to a be a good player. Taylor is just a 19-year old kid in his first year of college. Give him a year to make the transition. If he is still showing nothing next year then you can start to doubt his ability. But from what I hear Taylor is taking the criticism hard and it's not helping the situation by calling him names. Trust me, this kid has a lot of pressure with all of the McDonald's All-American talk about him and if he should decide to leave and be a good player somewhere else then Pitt fans will kick themselves. I'm not saying he will leave, but high profile kids who get trashed by the fans because they aren't living up to expectations are often the kids that do go elsewhere to get a fresh start. Lastly, let me say this about Taylor. He is simply overmatched physically at this point and that has hurt his confidence. But, I can tell you that the people at Pitt consider him "a great kid" and "the best teammate we have", and those are direct quotes.
Q: You took a lot of heat for saying Ashton Gibbs would suffer if he was playing point guard, but now you've been proven right. So why can't the coaches see that?
A: They can see that. They're not stupid. But there is nobody else to play there. Brad Wanamaker and Jermaine Dixon aren't point guards, and Chase Adams and Travon Woodall aren't very good.
Q: It seems like you thought Adams was going to be a better player. Clearly he wasn't worth bringing in, right?
A: Of course he was worth bringing in. It was either add him or nobody and at least adding him helps in practice. At best, he could have been a decent player. He did have some big games against top competition in the past so I think they were expecting to get a little more out of him, but it just didn't happen. At the end of the day, it was no harm, no foul.
Q: How can Pitt be underachieving with the talent they have?
A: They aren't underachieving. They were overachieving before. They don't have great talent. I don't know why some Pitt fans continue to put their heads in the sand over this. At various times the fans have pointed to Gibbs, Wanamaker, or Gilbert Brown as the best player on the team and what some fans seem to be blind to is that they have taken turns being awful. Sorry to be so blunt, but too many people still are delusional. If there was a draft in which every Big East team could draft from all of the players in the conference, only Gibbs would go in the first 30 picks. Anybody who thinks that Wanamaker and Brown are among the top 30 players in the league needs to do their homework because they're not. See, what happens is Brown scores 20 against Georgetown and 25 against USF, and the fans proclaim him to be the best player on the team. What they fail to mention is the fact that he went scoreless against WVU and Louisville, and has failed to reach double figures in the majority of his games. Or that Wanamaker leads the team in turnovers and fouls. I'm not suggesting that Gibbs, Wanamaker, and Brown aren't good players. The problem is, in the Big East almost everybody is good. You need to have players that are better than good. The fans were embarrassed that Pitt lost to USF, but I have news for you. If Augustus Gilchrist were playing in that game, USF would have had the two best players on the floor. So think about that the next time you think Pitt is so much better than USF this year because it's just not true. If the fact that USF has two better players than anybody on Pitt's team doesn't wake you up then you must be in a coma.
Q: We need to get Taylor out of the center position. Why don't they want Maurice Walker now?
A: They do want to sign Walker. That's 100% fact. They desperately want a true center and they are few and far between. The problem is that they don't have any scholarships available and are very hesitant to push somebody out. Personally, I would push somebody out, though I don't know if it would be for Walker, who quite frankly is yet another project. I have said this before, but sometimes this level of basketball is not for everybody and I would sit a kid or two down and tell them that they just aren't going to play much here so it's in their best interest to go elsewhere. Dixon has always hated doing that because he believes so much that he can make everybody a productive part of the team and he doesn't want to give up on anybody. Plus, the last time he did it, with Cassin Diggs, it ended in disaster when Diggs didn't want to leave and made a big stink about it. But, like I said, even if they did get Walker, he probably would not make a huge impact next season. They love his natural size, and great hands and feet, but he needs to lose a good 50 pounds before he could play at this level.
Q: Any word on if they still want to add Durand Johnson, and what about Jaylen Bond and Desmond Hubert for 2011?
A: They would love to add Johnson, but where would they find a scholarship? As for Bond and Hubert, they would love both for the PF spot. Bond is an ideal four in the Panthers system in that he is both physically strong, and skilled. Hubert, who gets mentioned by some as a center, is considered a four by Pitt, and he is very slight and not physically strong right now. However, he has a ton of upside. Both would be very difficult to land if they went that way, but first they must decide if they do want to go that way. Like I said before, they are really trying hard to add a true center and if it's not Walker than they will have to make center a top priority again in 2011. The problem, however, is that they see the 2011 center class as very weak. Personally, I would try to add two highly talented fours instead of a project five, if I could, because I know they like a lot of fours for 2011. While I know the line would be small would it be so bad to have, as an example, 6'6" J.J. Moore, 6'7" Bond, and 6'8" Hubert along the front line? That's if they could land that caliber. If not, then go for a true center. But, hey, that's me, and Dixon has a lot more coaching wins then I do.