by Terrence Mayrose
Coach of the Year Award has two candidates this season
The race for Player of the Year is a tight battle between viable candidates like John Wall, Wesley Johnson, and Evan Turner. Every voter would have a justifiable reason for picking any of these 3 fine players, which makes it hard to speculate who will walk away with the hardwood. The Coach of The Year award should not be as difficult. In the opinion of the T and 2, voters have a choice between Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon. There should be no other names even acknowledged on the ballots.
Boeheim has soured people on occasion this season, as he continues to talk about expansion of the NCAA Tournament, but when it comes to coaching his 26-2 team, he’s done a great job. The ESPN USA Preseason poll had the Orange slated #25, and the AP Poll didn’t even rank Boeheim’s boys to start the season. Entering the season you couldn’t really argue that Syracuse had lost some talent from the previous year. Cuse’ lost sharpshooter/trash-talker Eric Devendorf , powerful inside forward Paul Harris, and a kid named Jonny Flynn….we’re sure you know about him. It’s obvious this season that Boeheim put those losses in his rear view mirror, and hasn’t look back since. Taking the Gene Hackman “coach who I’ve got” motto, Boeheim has flourished with “who he’s got”. Who he’s got is superstar transfer Wesley Johnson, improved Rick Johnson, Andy Rautins, and returning from injury Scoop Jardine, a formidable squad to make a run deep in the tourney; and given the way Boeheim has meshed with this unit expect that deep run.
Pittsburgh has been a Big East powerhouse virtually the last decade. Winning two titles in 08 and 03, is a feat in itself, but appearing in 7 of the last 9 Big East Championship games…yes 7.. shows just how much of a mainstay Pitt is in America’s toughest conference. This season was likely to be the year Pitt would have no shot at continuing it’s dominance. In fact it’d be a stretch to even think Pitt could make the Semi-finals of such a loaded conference, given how much Pitt had lost. Departures of NBA bound Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, point guard Levance Fields, and forward Tyrell Biggs, left Dixon in a hole entering the new decade. Such a hole that Pitt was left off the AP and ESPN/ USA preseason polls. How does Jamie Dixon respond ? By channeling Chris “all he does is catch touchdown passes” Carter, and became Jamie “all he does is win basketball games’ Dixon. The name isn’t a stretch. He currently possesses a 77.9 winning percentage to date (184-52), which includes two 30 win seasons, two Sweet Sixteen’s, and an Elite Eight. This year’s squad is 21-7, in a large part to the improvement of Brad Wanamaker, Jermaine Dixon, Gilbert Brown and Ashton Gibbs who Dixon used as role players last year. It’s clear that giving them quality minutes last year has paid off dividends. Click here to read more.. »