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Special students, not basketball, focus of Dixon's speech

| Thursday, June 5, 2014, 8:39 p.m.

Jamie Dixon thought he was there to talk basketball.

Then, he met students from St. Anthony School, and his appearance Thursday morning at the Rivers Club, Downtown, became much more.

Picking St. Anthony graduate Teresa Plunkett out of the crowd, Dixon said, “If that smile doesn't change your day, what does?”

Dixon, the Pitt basketball coach, was the keynote speaker at the second annual Spirit of St. Anthony breakfast. He was accompanied by Pitt football coach Paul Chryst, the host for the event and an honorary member of the St. Anthony board of trustees.

Dixon praised the school, which serves 105 intellectually disabled students ages 5-21 at seven sites. He said instructors motivate students to think about “more than video games and basketball.”

Students Gianfranco Schiaretta, Charlie Osborn and Connor Bienemann helped show diners to their seats.

Dixon steered clear of an excessive amount of basketball talk, even though he noted that breakfast promoters touted his knowledge of the game.

“Some people may laugh at that,” he said, “especially (after) not fouling at the end of the first half of the Florida game (Pitt's loss in the NCAA Tournament).”

Dixon arrived at the breakfast only eight hours after returning from a Nike coaches event in the Caribbean. He said it was a pleasant trip, joking he didn't even mind that Florida coach Billy Donovan was on his return flight.

Thursday was a busy day for Dixon, who said he planned to interview two candidates for the coaching vacancy on his staff created when Barry Rohrssen left for Kentucky. He also was scheduled to speak Thursday night at a Pitt booster event in Johnstown.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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