Dixon agrees to extension to stay at Pittsburgh

Updated: March 25, 2006, 7:19 PM ET
Associated Press

Jamie Dixon is staying as Pitt's basketball coach, agreeing Saturday to a contract extension after Arizona State and Missouri approached him following the Panthers' elimination from the NCAA Tournament last weekend.

Dixon, one of the Big East's lower-paid coaches during his first three seasons, will move closer to being one of the conference's higher-paid coaches. He previously made between $500,000 and $600,000 a season in salary under a contract that ran through 2010. The new deal runs through the 2012-13 season and is believed to boost him closer to the $800,000- to $900,000-a-year level next season.

Dixon, 40, is 76-22 at Pitt, and will return eight of the top 10 players from this season's 25-8 team in 2006-07. The Panthers won their first 15 games this season, advanced to the Big East tournament championship game and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being upset by Bradley 72-66 last Sunday.

"Jamie has proven he was the right person for our head coaching position three years ago and continues to be the right person today," athletic director Jeff Long said Saturday.

The signing ended several days of speculation that, like former Pitt coach Ben Howland's departure for UCLA in 2003, he might be lured away by a school closer to his West Coast roots. Dixon, a Los Angeles-area native, is believed to have had several days of discussions with Arizona State about replacing Rob Evans.

However, Dixon said recently he was happy at Pitt and wasn't thinking about leaving a job that has become one of the best in the country since he arrived as Howland's associate head coach in 1999.

"There is no place else that I would rather be, and I made that fact clear, both to Chancellor [Mark] Nordenberg and our athletic director," Dixon said Saturday. "During the course of the season, Jeff and I discussed the future of our program and he reinforced Pitt's desire for me to be the head coach at Pitt for a long time."

Pitt has played in the last five NCAA Tournaments under Howland and Dixon, advancing to the round of 16 in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and having only one winning season in five years before they arrived in 1999.

Dixon had no Division I head coaching experience before being hired by Pitt. The school initially offered the job to Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser but, following Prosser's rejection, quickly hired Dixon after several players -- including point guard Carl Krauser -- lobbied for his hiring.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, two-time national champion coach Jim Calhoun of Connecticut is the best-paid coach in the Big East with a salary of $1.5 million. Among other conference coaches, Marquette's Tom Crean makes $1.1 million, West Virginia's John Beilein makes $700,000 and Villanova's Jay Wright made $510,000, but will be paid much more under a new deal that also extends through the 2012-13 season.

Coaches' salaries don't always reflect total compensation because some receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for shoe company contracts and TV shows.

Dixon didn't have an agent during his first two seasons at Pitt, apparently because the school asked him not to hire one. However, he recently hired Boston-based lawyer Dennis Coleman to represent him during his contract talks with Pitt. The talks didn't begin until after the season ended because Long didn't want them to become a distraction.

"We moved efficiently and effectively in those discussions at the conclusion of our season," Long said. "It was our objective to continue to have Jamie and his family in Pittsburgh -- and at the University of Pittsburgh -- for a long time and we are pleased they feel the same way."

What is uncertain is whether Dixon's top assistant, Barry Rohrssen, will stay. The New York City native could be a candidate to replace Louis Orr at Seton Hall.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press