Heir to the Throne: Five Additional Candidates to Replace Dixon
By: Josh Rothenberg
University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Scott Barnes has a big decision to make. The departure of head coach Jamie Dixon, arguably the most successful coach in Pitt basketball history, leaves a gaping hole at the top of the sport for which Pitt is best known for. Barnes’ job to find a coach that satisfies not only himself but a Panther fan base with high expectations is not an envious one. Here are five candidates that may not seem like obvious fits at first glance but deserve some consideration.
Tommy Amaker (Head Coach – Harvard)
While Amaker isn’t a huge name from a big school he has one of more impressive coaching transcripts Barnes will be choosing from. Amaker has been the coach at Harvard for nine years now and has accomplished a lot during his time with the Crimson. Amaker’s teams have won consistently, with a down year this past year snapping streaks of six straight 20+ win seasons and four straight Ivy League titles and the NCAA Tournament berth that comes along with them. Amaker is also known to be a great recruiter. The 2016 Harvard class comes in at 24th in the country according to 247sports.com, which is a solid 52 spots above Pitt’s incoming class. Amaker had solid but unspectacular stints at Seton Hall and Michigan and many think that his success on and off the court at an Ivy League school has earned him another shot at the big time. While Pitt fans may be cautious about hiring someone who failed to excel at bigger schools before, Amaker has proven over the past nine years to be a top level coach and a consistent winner with post season success, which Pitt sorely needs.
Andy Enfield (Head Coach – Southern California)
The man behind the creation of “Dunk City” at Florida Gulf Coast has moved on to Southern Cal, where he rejuvenated the program. Enfield transformed USC from a team with a losing record into an eight seed in the NCAA Tournament in just three years. That’s two programs where Enfield has been able to give a team a new identity, or in FGCU’s case, a first identity. Pitt is clearly in need of such an identity facelift and Enfield has proven more than capable of doing that. His Sweet 16 run with 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 is still his only real postseason success but his opportunities have been limited. The high flying vibe Enfield would bring to Pitt is much different than the slow, physical reputation the school currently has. Would the Shippensburg, PA native want the chance to return east and try to implement his style in the best conference in basketball? One would like to think so.
Eran Ganot (Head Coach – Hawai’i)
Ganot is the first year head man at the University of Hawai’i. In his first year the Warriors pushed Oklahoma to the brink in the regular season, won the Big West regular season and conference titles and then beat Cal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While Ganot’s squad eventually lost a tough game to Maryland in the second round they impressed on the national stage. Ganot may be enticed to leave the Aloha state because of the upcoming sanction on the team barring the school from the post-season next year. Even though he is relatively unexperienced, which might throw some people off, he would bring a sense of youth and life into a program that so desperately needs it. He had tremendous success with a Hawai’i team that hasn’t had much of that in the past. Pitt would be a big step up for Ganot and it would be hard for him to turn down such a big school and the payday that comes with it.
Will Wade (Head Coach – Virginia Commonwealth)
Wade presents a very unique option, but one that is my personal favorite. Wade is just one year into his stint at VCU, replacing Shaka Smart after he left for Texas. He had tremendous success with the Rams this year, taking them to the 2nd round of the NCAAs while racking up 25 wins in the solid A-10 conference. Wade plays the HAVOC style defense that Smart made legendary while at VCU. Pitt seems to have lost a distinct identity as a team since joining the ACC, hovering between the old, brutal Big East style of play and the more finesse up tempo ACC style. They have done that without a real system to guide them and Wade would give Pitt a system that the conference hasn’t seen recently. Whether Wade would take the job or not is hard to predict but he would give Pitt a playing style that would not only be unfamiliar to ACC teams but as a 33-year-old head coach has the potential to change the course of the whole program in the long term.
Brandin Knight (Assistant Coach – Pittsburgh)
Before he was the Pittsburgh Head Coach, Jamie Dixon was an assistant under Ben Howland and we know how well that promotion turned out. Some might say that promoting Knight to the head job might not be enough of a refresher for the program he brings youth, energy and a lot of passion for the University to the table. By all accounts Knight has been an ace recruiter during his short time on campus and that is very important to Barnes. Knight has already earned the support from former Panthers Levance Fields and Lamar Patterson via Twitter. Even Jamie Dixon has voiced his support for Knight, according to a report by KDKA’s Bob Pompeani. Knight seems to have a lot of natural coaching ability but whether he is ready to lead a big program like Pitt is up for debate. His lack of head coaching experience might scare Barnes considering how important it is for him to get this hire righ