For Pitt and men’s basketball head coach Jamie Dixon, the 2015-2016 season was unlucky No. 13.
After 13 seasons at the helm, Dixon has accepted an offer from Texas Christian University — his alma mater — to become its new head coach, Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes announced at a press conference Monday.
Dixon finished his career with a 328-123 mark. He has coached at the University since 1999, starting as an assistant coach and eventually earning a promotion to head coach following the departure of Ben Howland in 2003.
Dixon played basketball at TCU from 1984-1987.
The head coach met with his players Monday afternoon to inform them of his decision, though Barnes revealed initial discussions between himself and Dixon about the coach’s future started “in recent weeks.”
Under then-Athletic Director Steve Pederson, Dixon signed a contract extension in 2013 that ran until 2023, with an undisclosed buyout attached. Barnes described that number as “as big of a buyout as I’ve ever seen in the marketplace.”
According to Barnes, the University agreed to negotiate the total down to facilitate a deal, noting that Dixon clearly wanted to return to his alma mater.
“We softened that buyout because, again, where his heart and his head was was at TCU,” Barnes said. “And because of that, it wouldn’t have been good for our program and our student athletes or him and his family to hold him hostage by what was a way-beyond-market buyout.”
Barnes added that despite decreasing the amount, the school still managed to “take care of [its] fiduciary responsibilities.”
During his tenure at Pitt, Dixon earned numerous accolades, including the Naismith College Coach of the Year in 2009, the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year in 2010 and the Sporting News College Basketball Coach of the Year in 2011.
He won two regular season Big East conference titles in 2004 and 2011 and a Big East Tournament championship in 2008.
Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher released a statement regarding Dixon’s decision, thanking the coach for his 17 years of service.
“He was a great leader who cared deeply for our student-athletes and our entire basketball program,” Gallagher said in the release. “I can appreciate that the rare chance of coaching for your alma mater does not come up very often and is hard to pass up, but we will miss him here at Pitt. We wish him the best, and we now turn our attention to advancing our gram, building on the solid foundation Jamie left us.”
In terms of filling the vacancy on the sideline, Barnes said it’s his obligation as an athletic director to be prepared for departures.
“If you’re an AD worth your salt, you better have a list [of potential replacements] in your pocket at all times in today’s day and age and today’s market,” Barnes said. “So certainly there are folks we’ve had in mind, and we’ll pursue aggressively.”
Barnes referred to Pitt as a “national job,” noting that he won’t limit Pitt’s search to any one area or look for anyone with specific geographical ties. He said the department enlisted a search firm within the last couple days and added that hiring a sitting Division I head coach is a priority.
Barnes considers the opportunity to coach at Pitt a prestigious one, as it has numerous factors working in its favor.
“Maybe I’m looking at it through rose-colored glasses,” Barnes said. “But you think about the facility, you think about the fan support, you think about the platform that is the ACC, and, oh, by the way, the incredible success that Pitt has had over a number of years. This is a fantastic job, and I think it is viewed that way by coaches around the country.”
Rose-colored glasses or not, Barnes would prefer to wrap up the coaching search before the sun sets on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow would be great,” Barnes joked. “I’m already behind.”