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A Good Seat

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Good thing Jamie Dixon keeps a short list of potential assistant coaches at his disposal, as the seats next to the Pitt men’s basketball coach are in a game of musical chairs.

No wonder coaching candidates are scrambling for that spot when the music stops. Seems that sitting next to Dixon is a sure-fire way to get a head-coaching job.

Barry Rohrssen left for Manhattan, Joe Lombardi for IUP and Mike Rice Jr. for Robert Morris. All three came to Pitt with reputations as savvy recruiters, then landed talented players and left to run their own programs.

“That proved, as our record shows, to be more of a benefit to us than a detriment,” Dixon said. “I think it’s a good thing for programs. I think it’s a reflection of success, of a quality staff. We encourage guys to become head coaches. I think it’s why we’re able to draw the assistants we’re able to draw. Some coaches don’t like that, but I do.”

When Dixon hired Tom Herrion as his top lieutenant Monday, not only did the Panthers get another assistant known as a relentless recruiter but one with a head-coaching gig on his resume. Herrion had an 80-38 record in four seasons at College of Charleston.

Forgive Herrion if he feels burned from that experience, where he was forced to resign when the school hired Gregg Marshall, who pulled a Bobby Cremmins by backing out a day later. So what did College of Charleston do? It hired Bobby Cremmins.

No kidding.

One year later, Turgeon led Winthrop to a first-round win over Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, then took the Wichita State job after Mark Turgeon left for Texas A&M, where Billy Gillispie left for Kentucky, where Tubby Smith left for Minnesota. And you thought Pitt had a revolving door with its assistant coaches?

After spending a season as a college basketball analyst for ESPN Regional and Comcast, Herrion mulled over other offers to join other coaching staffs. Herrion took his wife, Leslie, and 16-month-old son, Robert James, into strong consideration when choosing his next move.

“This is the one that felt the best for me and my family at this point,” Herrion said of Pitt. “Fortunately, I had a nice four-year run. I’ve tasted the head-coaching experience. If something arises, so be it. To Pitt and coach Dixon’s credit, he’s hired talented guys prior to me.

“Having been a head coach, it’s not the end-all, be-all. We’re a package deal. My family is really part of this.”

In Pitt, Herrion found the perfect program for his family and, if recent history is any indication, one that could lead him to his next head-coaching job.

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