Jamie Dixon addresses the crowd after being introduced as the new basketball coach at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ron T. Ennis/Special to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
During the TCU school song, Jamie Dixon stands with his wife, Jacqueline, and children, Shannon and Jack, after being announced as the new Horned Frogs basketball coach Tuesday.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes spent part of Tuesday morning at the Petersen Events Center interviewing candidates and even made a hire … but he was interviewing candidates for athletic department administrative positions, not potential men’s basketball coaches.
That process will formally start any day now and when it does, two coaches who will not be in the mix are Arizona’s Sean Miller and Dayton’s Archie Miller, both Blackhawk High School graduates.
A report by KDKA-TV on its website said Sean Miller, who played at Pitt in the 1980s, was in Pittsburgh interviewing for the job Tuesday morning, was offered the post and was most likely going to take it. That report, however, wasn’t up on the Internet for more than 10 minutes when countless people in Arizona tweeted that Miller was in his Tucson office and not in Pittsburgh.
And then Miller issued the following statement through his Twitter account:
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the University and City of Pittsburgh. My memories and friendships of my time as a student-athlete are the best and strongest of my lifetime. However, I have one of the great jobs in college basketball at Arizona. I have no interest in becoming the head coach at Pitt. I wish them luck in replacing Jamie Dixon, a tremendous coach and person, who did an incredible job in his time there.”
Miller didn’t actually say that he wasn’t in Pittsburgh or wasn’t offered the job but sources around both Pitt and Miller confirmed he wasn’t interviewed in Pittsburgh and wasn’t formally offered the job.
And shortly thereafter a source close to Archie Miller said he, too, has no interest in the Pitt job.
That doesn’t mean that Barnes, who is a friend of Sean Miller’s, didn’t pick up the phone and at least gauge his interest, but it does mean the search for the next head coach at Pitt will move forward and the two most-mentioned choices — because of their ties to the area — among fans will not be involved in the search.
So far, the names of candidates out there are mostly in the rumor stage but the profile of what Barnes is looking for was spelled out Monday at a news conference.
“We won’t limit ourselves to any specific area when it comes to hiring the right guy,” Barnes said, when asked about whether regional ties are important. That means the job search will go beyond those who have ties to the Pittsburgh area.
Barnes said he wants a coach who can “absolutely recruit his tail off.” Dixon had been criticized about recruiting in recent years.
But there are some other characteristics that he is looking for in a coach:
• A coach with a successful track record at a Division I program.
• Someone with impeccable character who can connect with student-athletes.
• A coach who has leadership on the court and in the community.
Those things are obvious in most coaching searches but Barnes went one step further. He talked about the style of play he thinks would be best.
“I think it is important [an entertaining style of play] in recruiting,” Barnes said. “Certainly for fan experiences, too, but what drives the train is the ability to recruit at a high level and style of play and who you hire and what you have to offer as an institution plays into that.”
That last part is important for this reason — because Pitt ticket sales and attendance have declined in the past two years. Some of that was because the team wasn’t winning enough but some was a consistent complaint by fans that Dixon’s style of play wasn’t entertaining enough.
That doesn’t mean Barnes is out looking for the next run-and-gun coach but it does mean that he understands that the program needs some help to bring fans back to Petersen Events Center.
To that end, it isn’t surprising that one of the top coaches on Barnes’ list to talk to was former Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood, whom Oklahoma State hired Monday.
Stephen F. Austin entertained the country this weekend in the NCAA tournament with an upset of West Virginia and near upset of Notre Dame — and they did so because they played a fun style of up-tempo, full-court basketball.
That is a coach that would certainly fit the profile Barnes talked about and it is the kind of coach he will search for over the next few days and weeks.
Paul Zeise: pzeise@Post-gazette.com and Twitter @paulzeise.
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