We recently finished an interview with the Sporting News 2011 National Coach of the Year, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon. Dixon has led the Panthers to a 216-60 (78.3%) record and three Big East Championships (two regular season, one tournament) in his eight year head coaching tenure at Pittsburgh. We talked to coach Dixon about how he recruits players, common mistakes made by prospects in the recruiting process and much more.
Academics and the type of program they come from, especially winning programs. I look at where they’ve come from and their development to where they are now. We want guys that want to be better. We want guys that want to improve and will work hard.
What do you try to sell to recruits?
Improvement, how we can help the improve and develop their game and reaching their goals. We want to improve them as players and students and expect to help them get degrees.
What is your biggest selling point that isn’t basketball related?
It’s different for each kid but in general the city of Pittsburgh. Our kids like going to school and hanging out in the city of Pittsburgh. We have a unique crowd since most schools don’t sell out their games and have great student involvement. Sold-out crowds is a great selling point.
How do you feel about your incoming class of freshman?
It’s a very balanced class and they all come from winning programs.
What do you think is the most common mistake made by prospects in the recruiting process?
Sometimes prospects don’t trust themselves… they trust others who haven’t been in their position and other outsiders but not themselves. They just need to keep an open mind and trust their instincts and rely on themselves, and not others who haven’t been in their situation.
What’s your favorite part of the recruiting process?
I really enjoy the whole part of it. I love the evaluations and going out in July and sitting in the stands watching players in AAU to see them play.
What’s your least favorite part of the recruiting process?
I would say the declining opportunities to see people play and evaluate them, especially declining opportunities to see them play against adequate competition.
Who have you learned the most from? What did you learn from them?
I would say Ben Howland and Jackson Wheeler. Between the two, I learned every situation and university is different. You need to sit down and figure out what you’re looking for. You need to know where and why you’re recruiting players.
What have you learned on your own?
That there’s so many different ways of finding and recruiting players. The key is recruiting a good number of players and players who will give you the opportunity to have more success. Also that there’s a lot of good players out there and you can’t make excuses for players’ mistakes. There’s always a player out there that can help you.
Are there any recruits that stick out in your mind?
The key to turning our program around was Ontario Lett. I had never heard about him leading up to his junior year but he played really well at the NBA pre-draft camp.