USC has plenty of options, starting with Dixon

June, 15, 2009
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon returned from a family vacation in Hawaii on Sunday. He was scheduled to be in Pittsburgh on Monday and then head out to Colorado Springs on Tuesday to begin coaching the USA Basketball U-19 team heading to New Zealand next month. Somewhere mixed in there, he will almost certainly be getting a call from USC.

The chances of him saying anything other than "No, thanks" are still small, but according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Dixon will be given the first chance to replace Tim Floyd. USC has to go through that process first, likely through back channels and then maybe directly with Dixon, before it can move ahead. Waiting to ask permission to speak with him is just a formality and rarely happens anymore. By the time permission has been granted, the coach has either accepted or told the school he's not interested.

USC's move toward Dixon is akin to what Kentucky did two years ago with Florida's Billy Donovan. Even though all indications were that Donovan would remain with the Gators, the Wildcats had to go through the process of making a run at him. He was the obvious first choice. UK's approach was a bit more public than anything USC would likely do in the coming days. But the Trojans, according to a source, have to make the effort to look at Dixon.

Multiple sources close to Dixon in and out of Pittsburgh say he won't leave for Los Angeles. But there is nothing wrong with listening. For example, what if USC were to throw a crazy offer at Dixon, like $2 million a year for eight years? Wouldn't he have to at least listen? Dixon's buyout is projected to be at least $1 million, according to sources, although Pitt doesn't release contract details on its coaches.

Dixon, like any other elite coach in his position, doesn't have to leave for a rebuilding situation, even one that has as many recruiting advantages as USC, with its proximity to players. Dixon is from the L.A. area, but Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson isn't fretting over the current situation because of how much Dixon is revered in Pittsburgh and the way the Panthers view him as their version of Mike Krzyzewski, a coach who can leave a legacy for years to come. The timing isn't great for Dixon, either, with a USC roster that seems to get smaller with every passing day and a commitment to be with USA Basketball for the next month.

If, as expected, Dixon doesn't want the job, then USC will have some interesting choices. Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg, a former Long Beach State head coach, is well-connected in the area and has been a vocal critic of coaches who run afoul of NCAA rules. Oregon State's Craig Robinson comes from an Ivy League background as a player at Princeton and a coach at Brown and fits the criteria of being above reproach with the NCAA.

If the Trojans want a coach who could play with the big boys in recruiting elite talent again, then former Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus could fit that tag. Pro coaches, like Lakers assistants Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw, have solid name recognition but don't have the experience with NCAA rules over the past decade.

There is also a dark-horse candidate in Cal State-Northridge's Bobby Braswell, who coached USC senior associate athletic director Dr. Brandon Martin at Cleveland High in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. USC athletic director Mike Garrett will make the call, not Martin. But Braswell does have an in and could be a legitimate fall-back candidate for a number of reasons. He knows the L.A. market, can recruit and has done a tremendous job revitalizing the Matadors. Northridge gave 2-seed Memphis a serious scare in the first round of this season's NCAA tournament.

Braswell, who has coached the Matadors for 13 seasons, was in the Big Sky at the same time Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon were there at Northern Arizona. Braswell helped Northridge move from the Big Sky to the Big West and become a major player in that league. He would make sense if the Trojans want to remain local and/or if money is an issue.

In summary, Dixon offers the best-case scenario for USC, while Theus, Robinson or Greenberg would certainly win a news conference. But few coaches, including the ones listed above, might be willing to take the gamble without knowing how bad it could get at USC. No one -- not the candidates or anyone at the school -- has a clue how badly the Trojans will get hit by the NCAA when the investigation is complete.

• Gonzaga's Austin Daye is scheduled to work out with the New York Knicks on Monday morning and afterward will make up his mind as to whether he will remain in the NBA draft. Daye said Sunday night he will make the decision right before Monday's 5 p.m. ET deadline.

Wake Forest coach Dino Guadio spent Sunday night meeting with Jeff Teague and his family as Teague decides whether to stay in the draft or go back to school. According to a source connected with agent Mike Conley Sr., Teague hadn't signed with Conley, the advisor who has been helping him in the process, as of Sunday afternoon.

Maryland's Greivis Vasquez is expected to make his decision known Monday. So, too, is Saint Mary's Patrick Mills, who was scheduled to have a workout Monday morning. Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, Kentucky's Jodie Meeks and Texas A&M's Chinemelu Elonu will push the Monday deadline as well.

UPDATE: Meeks announced Monday he will remain in the draft, as did Teague, Elonu, Daye and Mills. Vasquez and Harangody, on the other hand, will return to college.

• Holy Cross is expected to make Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion one of its finalists to replace Ralph Willard, who left to become an assistant on Rick Pitino's Louisville staff. A lot of names have been bandied about in the past few days, notably Kansas assistant Joe Dooley. One rumor that apparently doesn't have legs is the one about Vermont's Mike Lonergan. Lonergan has made it clear that he intends on staying with the Catamounts, who should be one of the favorites to win the America East title. To be fair, he does seem like a natural fit at Holy Cross, which has long been considered the best job in the Patriot League. Lonergan went to American International College in Springfield, Mass., coached in the Patriot League as an assistant at Colgate and has family ties to the school, where his father, Jack, was a left-handed pitcher for the Crusaders' 1952 NCAA College World Series championship team.

• The Providence Journal did an extensive series with outgoing 18-year Rhode Island president Robert Carothers and he had some scathing words for two former Rams coaches. He credited Jim Harrick with the single-best basketball season in URI history (the Elite Eight run of 1998) and gave him his due for helping build the Ryan Center. But he followed it up with this zinger: "On the other hand, he was a great embarrassment. The same character flaws he had at UCLA ended up here, and he passed them on to another generation too [at Georgia]. No question he's an excellent coach. But not necessarily a great man."

He followed that up with a dig at Harrick's replacement, Jerry DeGregorio, who at the time was thought to be hired only because there was a chance he could keep his former prep school player, Lamar Odom, on the team. Odom, who played one season at URI and led the Rams to the A-10 tournament title in 1999, declared for the draft and didn't return. The Journal quoted Carothers as saying hiring DeGregorio was the "single worst personnel decision I ever made in my life. I don't do this very often, but at the time I listened to the alumni. He's a nice guy, but it was a bad situation."

Current coach Jim Baron is 113-118 since he was hired in 2001. Baron has brought stability to the program, but hasn't been able to get the Rams into the NCAA tournament in his eight seasons.

• I want to express my deep condolences to the family of former Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick. Frederick was one of the most genuine and warm athletic directors I've come across in the past two decades. He made a bold choice when he hired North Carolina assistant Roy Williams to take over KU after Larry Brown had won the 1988 national title. Frederick was a central figure in the world of college basketball for many years, including his time as the chair of the NCAA men's basketball tournament committee. His tragic death after a bike accident in Lawrence shouldn't have gotten lost amid other news in the sport last week. Frederick was an example of what was good in the sport. He will be sorely missed.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?