Jamie Dixon won more games in other seasons. He finished higher in the Big East standings and advanced deeper into the other NCAA tournaments.
But the 2009-10 Pitt basketball season will be remembered as one of the most memorable in school history. With four first-year starters and some unsung players, Dixon guided Pitt to 25 victories and finished tied for second in the Big East in a season many believed the Panthers would struggle to finish with a winning record.
For those accomplishments, Dixon has been named the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year for 2010.
"I know the list of guys who have won before," Dixon said. "I have great appreciation for the history of sports. As everyone knows, I'm a big fan of all of the Pittsburgh teams. This is quite an honor."
The 2010 Sportswoman of the Year is Duquesne women's coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. Dixon and McConnell-Serio will be honored along with former Steelers great Joe Greene and local auto racing owner Chip Ganassi at the 75th annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction presented by BNY Mellon Feb. 9 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Greene is being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Ganassi is the winner of the Sports Leadership Award.
Dixon is the first coach from Pitt to win Sportsman of the Year since his predecessor, Ben Howland, in 2002. He won his 200th game Wednesday night, reaching the milestone in only eight seasons. Only two other coaches in NCAA history achieved his 200th win in as many seasons.
The national experts were not expecting much from Pitt last season. Picked to finish ninth in a preseason poll of Big East coaches, the Panthers produced miracle comebacks and last-second buzzer-beaters, all with their usual brand of hard-nosed basketball that has endeared them to the city's sports fans.
The end result was a seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for Dixon and the ninth in a row for the Panthers, the best current streak in the conference. Dixon was not surprised that his team made the NCAA tournament again.
"I pointed out before the season that we had really good players," Dixon said. "I thought we were going to be good."
Dixon arrived in Pittsburgh in 1999 as a 33-year old assistant coach under Howland. After four seasons, Howland moved on to UCLA, and Dixon was selected as his successor.
Dixon, whose paternal grandparents met in Pittsburgh, was a Pirates fan before he arrived and has become an avid follower of the Steelers and Penguins. He has been to numerous Dapper Dan Dinners in recent years and has always felt like a fan. He said that won't change this year.
"If I'm the guy getting autographs there, don't be surprised," he said.
McConnell-Serio, one of the best female athletes in Pittsburgh's history, is the sportswoman of the year for a second time. She also won the award in 1999, following her first season with the Cleveland Rockers in the WNBA. This time, the former Seton-La Salle and Penn State star is being recognized for her abilities behind the bench.
Duquesne won 20 games in each of the past two seasons and twice appeared in the WNIT. Before her arrival on the Bluff, the women's team never had won 20 games or appeared in a postseason tournament. The Dukes last season finished tied for fourth in the Atlantic 10 with a 9-5 record and became the first squad to achieve back-to-back winning seasons in conference since joining the league in 1983-84.
"I wasn't expecting it at all. It didn't even cross my mind, I don't think about those things. I was shocked when I got the call.
"It's truly an honor to be recognized by the Dapper Dan. I loved being a player and I absolutely love being a coach. When I was a player, I had to do the work. It's a lot different now, as a coach, my success depends on our team. We're successful together. Because of our team, that's why we're successful. It's nice to be recognized."
A native of Brookline, McConnell-Serio played at Penn State from 1984-87. She helped the Nittany Lions to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and was named the school's first first-team All-American while setting NCAA Division I records for career assists, assists in a season and season assist average. Her assist total and assist per game average led the nation in both 1986 and 1987.
Following her career at Penn State, McConnell-Serio won a gold medal with the United States women's basketball team in 1988 in Seoul. In 1992, she was a bronze medalist in the Barcelona Games. She also won a gold medal as a member of the 1991 U.S. World University Games team.
Duquesne is McConnell-Serio's third head-coaching stop. She won 315 games and three PIAA Class AAAA championships at Oakland Catholic from 1991-2003. From 2003-2006, McConnell-Serio was the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA.
• What: Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction.
• Where: David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
• When: Feb. 9, 2011.
• Of note: For more information or to buy tickets, call 412-263-3850, or go to
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com or 412-263-1230.