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Dixon leaving Pitt for TCU job

| Monday, March 21, 2016, 4:55 p.m.

Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes determined soon after the Panthers' second-round loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament that it was time to move on from the Jamie Dixon era.

Three days after the Panthers' season ended, Dixon accepted a job at Texas Christian University, his alma mater, in a sudden departure that came with Barnes' blessing.

“Jamie's head and heart was moving toward TCU,” Barnes said. “When that's the case, being at Pitt isn't the right opportunity because your heart and head is somewhere else. We had the opportunity to make that TCU job available to him.”

Dixon agreed.

“Seventeen years at one school is a long time,” Dixon said. “This was an opportunity for me to go home.”

As Barnes seeks to replace the winningest coach in Pitt history, he said there should be no shortage of candidates for a job he considers among the best in college basketball.

“Maybe I'm looking through rose-colored glasses, but this is a fantastic job,” Barnes said Monday afternoon. “It's viewed that way by coaches across the country. Certainly there's folks we have in mind and will pursue aggressively.”

Barnes, who has enlisted the services of a search firm, said his timetable to hire a new coach is immediate.

“A new era in Pitt basketball begins, earnestly,” Barnes said.

Among the qualities sought by Barnes, who stressed hiring someone with Division I head coaching experience: “A guy that can absolutely recruit his butt off.”

Potential candidates fitting that description include two coaches with Western Pennsylvania ties, Arizona coach and former Pitt standout Sean Miller, and younger brother Archie Miller, the Dayton coach. Xavier coach Chris Mack is another possibility.

Another potential candidate, who doesn't fit Barnes' original list of qualifications, is Pitt assistant Brandin Knight, who played under Dixon before advancing to the coaching ranks.

“Brandin Knight's ready to be a head coach,” Dixon said. “Just like Ben (Howland) leaving and I got the job, it's time. He's been with me the entire time I've been here (17 years). The players respect him. They believe in him.”

Until recently, Pitt believed in Dixon, who holds a 328-123 record with 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons.

However, that feeling changed over the weekend, according to Barnes, who was prepared to offer Dixon — who signed a 10-year extension in March 2013 — a new deal.

“We began conversations soon after coming back from the NCAA Tournament,” Barnes said. “We had conversations at my house, on the phone and in my office. As we moved through the process, he felt there was a very small window of opportunity he wasn't sure he would be able to take later.”

Barnes said Pitt offered to reduce a buyout in Dixon's contract totaling a reported $10.5 million, so that Dixon could sign with TCU, where he played from 1984-87.

“The buyout was as significant as I've seen in the marketplace. One that is way above anything else anybody has,” Barnes said. “We softened that buyout because I learned his heart and head was at TCU. Because of that, it wouldn't have been good for our program or student-athletes or him and his family to hold him hostage by what was a very beyond-market buyout.”

Dixon has longstanding relationships with TCU chancellor Victor Boschini and TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte.

In fact, Dixon and TCU have tried to come together before. He was reportedly the school's first choice four years ago following the exit of Jim Christian, who left for Ohio after four years in Fort Worth.

Dixon also helped Del Conte and TCU receive an invitation to join the Big East in 2011. Dixon takes over a struggling program that fired coach Trent Johnson after he posted a 50-79 record in four years, including a 12-21 mark this season, and hasn't advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 1998.

“I worked for great people at Pitt — Scott Barnes and Chancellor (Patrick) Gallagher. But I didn't know them as well. It's hard to know the athletic director in two days,” said Dixon, who had a close relationship with former Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson and former Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

“I've known (Boschini) since he got to TCU. I've known (Del Conte) since we were at UC-Santa Barbara 30 years ago,” Dixon said. “That's the exciting part. That's what makes it different from other opportunities.”

Dixon met with Pitt players and assistant coaches about an hour before Barnes met with reporters.

“They were quiet,” Dixon said. “They heard the rumors.”

Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference to discuss the departure of men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference to discuss the departure of men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference to discuss the departure of men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference to discuss the departure of men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Jamie Dixon played at TCU from from 1984-87.
TCU athletics
Jamie Dixon played at TCU from from 1984-87.
Pitt coach Ben Howland (left) watches his team as associate coach Jamie Dixon holds up a play sign during a game against Boston College on Thursday, March 7, 2002, at the Big East Tournament in New York.
Pitt coach Ben Howland (left) watches his team as associate coach Jamie Dixon holds up a play sign during a game against Boston College on Thursday, March 7, 2002, at the Big East Tournament in New York.
Pitt interim athletic director Marc Bomhm introduces Jamie Dixon as coach April 15, 2003.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt interim athletic director Marc Bomhm introduces Jamie Dixon as coach April 15, 2003.
JASMINE GEHRIS/TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Pitt's head coach Jamie Dixon reacts Sunday, January 2, 2005 during Pitt's loss to Bucknell at the Petersen Events Center in Oakland.
JASMINE GEHRIS/TRIBUNE-REVIEW Pitt's head coach Jamie Dixon reacts Sunday, January 2, 2005 during Pitt's loss to Bucknell at the Petersen Events Center in Oakland.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches his team during the EA Sports Challenge on Nov 9, 2003, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches his team during the EA Sports Challenge on Nov 9, 2003, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt athletic director Steve Peterson shares a laugh with Jamie Dixon during a news conference announcing Dixon's contract extension March 31, 2010.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Steve Peterson shares a laugh with Jamie Dixon during a news conference announcing Dixon's contract extension March 31, 2010.
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes (above) said the Pitt men’s basketball coaching job is a “national job,” but others disagree. “What is a national job?” Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy said. “It’s a job that has potential and has been successful but hasn’t made people happy being successful.”
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes (above) said the Pitt men’s basketball coaching job is a “national job,” but others disagree. “What is a national job?” Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy said. “It’s a job that has potential and has been successful but hasn’t made people happy being successful.”
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon reacts as the Panthers drop their fifth straight game Jan. 11, 2012, at home against Rutgers.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon reacts as the Panthers drop their fifth straight game Jan. 11, 2012, at home against Rutgers.
Pitt's Brad Wanamaker breaks the double team in front of coach Jamie Dixon in the second half against UNC Asheville's Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm during the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 17, 2011, at Verizon Center in Washington.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Brad Wanamaker breaks the double team in front of coach Jamie Dixon in the second half against UNC Asheville's Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm during the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 17, 2011, at Verizon Center in Washington.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches practice as the Panthers prepare for UCLA in the NCAA West Regional semifinal March 21, 2007.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches practice as the Panthers prepare for UCLA in the NCAA West Regional semifinal March 21, 2007.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon gestures during a NCAA second-round game Thursday, March 21, 2013, at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon gestures during a NCAA second-round game Thursday, March 21, 2013, at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches the Panthers practice Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches the Panthers practice Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Pitt point guard Tray Woodall hugs coach Jamie Dixon after leaving the Petersen Events Center floor for the last time after beating Villanova in overtime Sunday, March 3, 2013.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt point guard Tray Woodall hugs coach Jamie Dixon after leaving the Petersen Events Center floor for the last time after beating Villanova in overtime Sunday, March 3, 2013.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches Ashton Gibbs during the Big East quarterfinals against Notre Dame on March 11, 2010, at Madison Square Garden.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches Ashton Gibbs during the Big East quarterfinals against Notre Dame on March 11, 2010, at Madison Square Garden.
Pitt center DeJuan Blair announces his decision to leave for the NBA alongside coach Jamie Dixon on April 8, 2009.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt center DeJuan Blair announces his decision to leave for the NBA alongside coach Jamie Dixon on April 8, 2009.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon pats center DeJuan Blair as he heads to the bench during the Big East quarterfinal game against West Virginia at Madison Square Garden.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon pats center DeJuan Blair as he heads to the bench during the Big East quarterfinal game against West Virginia at Madison Square Garden.
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference March 21, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference March 21, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon reacts to a second-half call against Villanova on Feb. 5, 2012.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon reacts to a second-half call against Villanova on Feb. 5, 2012.
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a press conference on the future of Pitt Basketball at Petersen Events Center on the school's Oakland campus on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a press conference on the future of Pitt Basketball at Petersen Events Center on the school's Oakland campus on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference on the future of Pitt basketball Monday, March 21, 2016 at Petersen Events Center.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes holds a news conference on the future of Pitt basketball Monday, March 21, 2016 at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon talks in the huddle with the team during an NCAA Tournament second-round game against Wichita State on Thursday, March 21, 2013, at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon talks in the huddle with the team during an NCAA Tournament second-round game against Wichita State on Thursday, March 21, 2013, at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches as Cameron Wright is defended by Cal Poly's Jamal Johnson during the second half Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches as Cameron Wright is defended by Cal Poly's Jamal Johnson during the second half Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon (right) has won 75 percent of his games and led the Panthers to nine NCAA Tournament appearances in the previous 10 seasons, including two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon (right) has won 75 percent of his games and led the Panthers to nine NCAA Tournament appearances in the previous 10 seasons, including two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon's Panthers went 19-15 last season, their worst record during Dixon's tenure.
Chaz Palla | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon's Panthers went 19-15 last season, their worst record during Dixon's tenure.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon talks with guard Jonathan Milligan during a timeout in the first half against Cornell on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, at Petersen Events Center.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon talks with guard Jonathan Milligan during a timeout in the first half against Cornell on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon hugs senior point guard James Robinson as the Panthers beat Duke on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon hugs senior point guard James Robinson as the Panthers beat Duke on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon stands during open practice for the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2016, at Scottrade Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon stands during open practice for the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2016, at Scottrade Center.
Pitt's James Robinson walks off the court past coach Jamie Dixon in the second half against Wisconsin during an NCAA Tournament first-round game Friday, March 18, 2016, in St. Louis.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's James Robinson walks off the court past coach Jamie Dixon in the second half against Wisconsin during an NCAA Tournament first-round game Friday, March 18, 2016, in St. Louis.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon looks on as Dante Taylor comes off the court bleeding from his eye during the second half against Syracuse during their Big East Tournament quarterfinal game Thursday, March 14, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon looks on as Dante Taylor comes off the court bleeding from his eye during the second half against Syracuse during their Big East Tournament quarterfinal game Thursday, March 14, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
TCU's Jamie Dixon talks to coach Jim Killingsworth during a game against Baylor in 1987, in Fort Worth, Texas.
TCU's Jamie Dixon talks to coach Jim Killingsworth during a game against Baylor in 1987, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon encourages freshman Antonio Graves in 2004.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon encourages freshman Antonio Graves in 2004.
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