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Dixon won't change Pitt's style in ACC

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 7:09 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon signed a 10-year deal with the school that runs through the 2022-23 season.
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Pitt coach Jamie Dixon smiles during a game March 19, 2011, at Verizon Center in Washington.

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — Pitt coach Jamie Dixon saves most of his frustration for players who take bad shots and, of course, officials.

But he also isn't crazy about critics who assume Pitt must change its style of play now that it is headed to the ACC.

“If you are from Pittsburgh and you have success, they are going to say you're tough and you play good defense,” he said during a break from the ACC spring meetings.

Nice, but Dixon said Pitt will bring other assets to the ACC next season.

“I'll ask you, ‘Who was the most efficient offensive team in the Big East?' ” he said to a reporter. “I'll tell you. It's us.”

In three of the past five seasons, Pitt finished in the top eight in the nation and No. 1 in the Big East in points per possession (an average of 1.125).

“You have to be good at both (offense and defense) to have the results we have had,” he said. “We've had to be very flexible in what we've done, and we will continue to be flexible.”

Pitt won 24 games last season (12-6 in the Big East). But the task gets tougher from top to bottom in the ACC for a Pitt team that was one-and-done in four of the past five Big East tournaments. Worse, Pitt has only two NCAA Tournament victories (Oakland and North Carolina-Asheville) since going to the Elite Eight in 2009.

Dixon, who is the all-time winningest coach in Big East history (.658 percentage), is stepping into some elite company. When Louisville and coach Rick Pitino join the ACC next year, the conference will have four of the five active coaches who belong to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams being the others.

“This will be, arguably, the strongest collection of collegiate basketball programs ever in a single conference,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “There is a lot of quality inventory there.”

Even Dixon can't help himself in praising ACC basketball.

“We have gone from what is the best conference to the best conference,” he said, a version of double-speak that indicates he'll miss the Big East, but the ACC is not a bad place to call home. “Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse (ex-Big East schools headed to the ACC) have a lot to do with that.”

The truth, according to Dixon:

“From where we started in the Big East to where we ended in the Big East, the adjustment was far greater than what we (will do) going into the ACC.”

Indeed, seven of the 15 teams scheduled to be in the conference in time for the 2014-2015 season come from the Big East. To Dixon, that means there are not a lot of reasons to change what he's doing.

Three starters return for the Panthers next season, but it is a different team. Center Steven Adams left for the NBA, guard Tray Woodall and center Dante Taylor exhausted their eligibility, and forward J.J. Moore and guard Trey Zeigler decided to transfer.

“If you have a good team, you are going to lose good players,” Dixon said. “It's just a fact of life. I don't know that it's a problem. Every spring, teams go through this.”

CBSSports.com reported recently that more than 400 basketball players have decided to transfer since the end of the season. Last season, the figure surpassed 450.

Dixon, who is signed through 2023 with his second contract extension in three years, hopes his 2013 class eventually can cover up the losses. Pitt has signed four players, including point guard Josh Newkirk of Raleigh, N.C., who chose Pitt over nine other offers, including from ACC schools North Carolina State and Georgia Tech.

“The key is to improve your players and improve your talent base,” Dixon said. “We are in a position to do that.”

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