Speculation ends as Pitt gives Dixon contract extension

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Jamie Dixon has signed five contract extensions in his 10 seasons as Pitt's men's basketball coach. The most recent came Saturday, but this one was unlike any of the previous four.

The opening line of the statement that was distributed by the university read: "Stating that he intends to finish his career at the University of Pittsburgh ... "

Dixon, 47, has said many times over the years how much he and his family enjoy the university and the city, but it was the first time he said he would like to retire at Pitt.

This extension is for 10 years, through 2023, and is the longest extension he has signed.

"I guess that's recognizing my advancing age more than anything," Dixon joked later Saturday evening when reached by phone. "It's always been my intention to be here. Every day I go to work I go with that intention, with that belief that I'm going to be here."

Dixon's name is mentioned almost every year around this time when a prominent job opens. This year the job opening Dixon was being tied to was at Southern California, which is near his childhood home and where his parents and sister still reside.

In other years Dixon turned down several other major schools including Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Missouri.

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson did not deny there was a desire within the university to end the yearly speculation.

"Jamie has always been consistent with me in his desire to finish his career here," Pederson said. "At some point you have to let the public know it."

Pederson said the 10-year extension was symbolic as well. Dixon just completed his 10th season as head coach. He left the Big East Conference with the highest winning percentage in the league's history.

"We felt that we just had this great decade and now we're going into the [Atlantic Coast Conference] and we're focusing on the next decade," Pederson said. "Doing 10 years seemed logical. We hope he coaches here longer than that."

Dixon admitted he didn't always handle the speculation well in previous years. When asked if this extension would finally put his long-term commitment to Pitt to rest, he said: "I would have thought signing an eight-year extension would have done that. At times, I don't quite grasp the questions I get asked. I've come to that realization.

"I love it here. My wife loves it here. I say it all the time. I guess I don't say it enough. I feel like I've done a lot of things to show my commitment to the university and still I get asked the question."

Dixon rarely addressed the job speculation in other years. In some years, he received a contract extension. In others, he simply allowed the speculation to linger. But he sensed something was different this time with his players and the general public.

"A couple of players said something [Friday]," Dixon said. "Always, in my mind, I got a sense people thought differently. At the airport [Saturday], people were asking me what I was doing. That's when it hit me that maybe we should go ahead and address it."

Dixon has close relationships with Pederson and university chancellor Mark Nordenberg and vice-chancellor Jerry Cochran. Their presence at Pitt is likely the most important factor in Dixon remaining at the school for the length of his extension. He reiterated that again.

"I've always made that clear that it's my biggest concern," Dixon said. "To me, the most important thing is to know the people you're working for. To me, it's the most important thing. That's what is so unique about the situation. Some coaches see their athletic director at a monthly meeting. They'll see the chancellor once a year at an event. I talk to them every day.

"They can't tell me when they're retiring. There are some things you just don't know, but I know they'll be here tomorrow."

The most recent tax filing by the university showed Dixon's total compensation was $1.86 million for 2011. The new contract is worth more than $2 million in total compensation.

The raise will get Dixon in line with other coaches in the ACC, which receives more revenue from its television contract than the Big East did.

"We've always been fair with all of our coaches," Pederson said. "But certainly, we've put Jamie in a tier with other top coaches."

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfititpaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @rayfitt1. First Published March 24, 2013 4:00 AM


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