Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon got off to a fast start when he won a school-record 31 games in his first season in 2003-04. He has not slowed down much over the years, and tonight, he can write his name alongside some of the game's legends with a victory against American University.
Only a small group of coaches in the history of the game have won 200 games faster than Dixon. The NCAA record-holder is Clair Bee, who coached Rider and Long Island in the 1930s. Bee won No. 200 in his 231st career game.
If Pitt wins tonight, Dixon will claim his 200th victory in 255 games. Only 11 others have reached the milestone in fewer games.
Jerry Tarkanian earned his 200th win in his 234th game. Mark Few is the next in line at 247. (See accompanying chart for complete list.)
Game: American (7-4) vs. No. 6 Pitt (11-1), 7 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
Pitt: Coming off 97-64 victory against Maryland Eastern Shore. ... Senior F Gilbert Brown (10.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) scored a career-high 28 points against the Hawks. ... Junior G Ashton Gibbs (17.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) is shooting 45.9 percent from 3-point range. ... Leads the Big East Conference in scoring, averaging 82.3 points per game.
American: Coming off a 69-64 victory at Mount Saint Mary's. ... Advanced to the NCAA tournament two of the past three seasons. ... Led by by senior F Vlad Moldoveanu (19.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg). ... Coach Jeff Jones is in his 11th season with the Eagles.
Of note: Three Pitt players have 40 assists or more through 12 games, led by senior guard Brad Wanamaker, who has 72.
Dixon's consistency has been one of his strongest attributes as Pitt's head coach. It took him 126 games to win his first 100 games and he will reach his second 100 in 129 games if the Panthers take care of business tonight.
Dixon got his first victory against Alabama Nov. 14, 2003 at Madison Square Garden in New York. After the game, Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg presented Dixon with the game ball in the locker room. He has that ball on a shelf in his office along with balls commemorating a few other milestone games in his career.
"Every day I think about how I got a break," said Dixon, who replaced Ben Howland after Howland left Pitt for UCLA. "And I hope it never ends. I spend every day trying to prepare like the guy who was lucky to get a job. I did that for my first game and I still do that today."
Dixon is not one to reflect on personal milestones, but he has great affection for the players who have helped him win 199 games.
"We've been very fortunate," he said. "We've had a lot of good players. Oftentimes, I've had to convince people how good they were. The bottom line is if you believe in each other. That can take you a long way. That's what we've always had. We believe in our guys and what we do here. That's been a big part of our success."
Dixon has enjoyed watching his former players return to campus every summer to help give back to the program. As he conducted an interview on the Petersen Events Center court Monday, former point guard Carl Krauser was shooting baskets. Krauser is one of many former players who makes his home in Pittsburgh when he is not pursuing his professional basketball career.
"The last couple of summers I really reflected on the players and how they come back," Dixon said. "All of the guys in the NBA were back this summer. Chevy [Troutman] comes back every year and gives me a jersey of the team he plays with overseas. Almost all of our guys come from different areas, but they've made this their home or their second home. Even players I haven't coached are coming back and are becoming a part of our program. That's been the most satisfying thing to me."
Dixon has won 94 games against Big East teams in regular-season and conference tournament competition. He has recorded 95 victories against non-conference teams in the regular season and 10 in NCAA tournament games.
Senior guard Brad Wanamaker has been at Pitt for 104 of Dixon's 199 wins.
"He's a great guy," Wanamaker said. "He's very caring. He's worried about our improvement on and off the court. He comes in with the mindset every day of improvement. That's something that has carried over to us."
Dixon is the Big East's all-time leader in winning percentage (.696) in his first seven seasons in league competition. The next-closest coach is John Thompson of Georgetown with a .653 percentage, followed by Jim Calhoun (.642) and Jim Boeheim (.642).
"He emphasizes the little things," sophomore center Dante Taylor said. "He makes sure we do stuff right. He's a great coach. He talks to us off the court. If we need him, he's there for us. He's just a great person to be around."
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com or 412-263-1230.