The DraX-Files: Jack Handy has Deep Thoughts. I just tell you like it is…
Like The Terminator, Die Hard sequels, and yearly horrible Cleveland Brown’s seasons… “I’m back!”
After a long football season covering the Steelers and all Pittsburgh sports alike, I needed a little respite from writing, and was about to continue “going dark”, like Jack Bauer or 007 in Skyfall, when out of the blue, it was announced that Pitt Panther’s men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon was leaving to take the job at TCU.
After reading all of the morons and bridge jumpers on virtually every social media site calling for doom at Pitt, I had no choice but to come out of the shadows firing.
Look, it was a great run by Jamie Dixon. Pitt would not be where it is today without the coaching tenures of Ben Howland and Dixon. From 2001-2011, Pitt grew into a basketball power, always being one of the top teams in college basketball, even when they didn’t have the best talent available. But they were fun and exciting to watch. You couldn’t dream of out working them on the court. They would fight and claw at you till the bitter end. Straight out ballers like Carl Krauser, Brandin Knight, Levance Fields, Julius Page, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair made Pitt basketball a household name again.
But, since the 2011-12 season, the excitement level has dropped, as has the recruiting…and the overall record. Pitt became boring to watch, never nabbing any top flight players that were out the there. They always found a way to be 2nd or third choice for the best recruits.
It was rumored that many top players were afraid to give Pitt a chance due to Dixon’s aversion to using incoming players, choosing to play older players over younger, more talented ones, at the expense of playing better defense and making offense a lesser priority.
Don’t get me wrong, defense and rebounding should be expected, but so should putting the ball in the actual hoop, of which Pitt became rather expertly stagnant at, culminating with one of the worst offensive performances I’ve ever watched when Pitt lost to Wisconsin 47-43 in the 2nd Round of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
It was time for a change.
The University of Pittsburgh has:
1. One of the top facilities in all of NCAA sports, of which they continue to upgrade.
2. One of the best student sections in the Oakland Zoo and a great fan base when the poor fans aren’t bored to tears.
3. They made Coach Dixon of one the top paid coaches in the ACC, so Pitt/Scott Barnes will pay the right guy.
4. Oh, and, yeah, it’s a job in the ACC…the TOP Conference in basketball, top to bottom.
If I’m Pitt and AD Scott Barnes, these are my priorities:
Scott Barnes has already pumped life into the dormant football program with Pat Narduzzi. He isn’t about to let his momentum slip with the basketball program. This new administration will not settle for less. Pitt fans are used to getting their hearts ripped out. I understand their fears. I believe in Scott Barnes.
Everything is going according to the Script.
When I think of how the Pittsburgh Penguins outlook felt like under Mike Johnston, images of a barren wasteland popped into my mind.
Hope was long lost and desolate. The defense first system implemented by Johnston with the type of offensive talent the Penguins had would be like turning the ’27 Yankees into a 90’s Japanese Little League team that bunted every at bat, or the current Pittsburgh Steelers’ powerful offense into an option-run team.
What the hell was he thinking? Same goes for management for bringing in someone far over his head.
Under Mike Sullivan, the Penguins have come out of hibernation, and have gone from a team that was clawing for the last playoff spot, to looking like thee Cup favorites after outright destroying the Washington Capitals yesterday 6-2. It was Pittsburgh’s sixth straight victory, it’s fifth without Evgeni Malkin in the line-up. Remember when Sidney Crosby was left out of the All-Star Game and was 40th in scoring?
Crosby is now 3rd in the league with 76 points. With just 11 games remaining, it’s doubtful he’ll catch Patrick Kane, who has 92 points, but I’d bet even money he’ll catch Jamie Benn for 2nd, who has 80 points.
GM Jim Rutherford has done a marvelous job in rebuilding this team from what it was at the start of the season. Adding fast, puck moving defensemen like Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz, as well as the speedy Carl Hagelin has turned this team into a relentless group of carnivores, eager to possess the puck and attack relentlessly.
Malkin is hopeful to return in four weeks. That means the Penguins will have to continue their magical run without him until the 2nd round and the earliest.
Even without Malkin, the Pens have been rolling four consistent lines. Patrick Hornqvist, like Crosby, turned his season around. Phil Kessel seems to be heating up at the right time. Kris Letang is once again one of, if not the best defensemen in the NHL. Matt Cullen continues to defy age at 39. Marc Andre Fleury is playing at the top of his game.
This a team has eerily similar feel as did the 2009 team did. You know, the team that struggled half the year, needed a coaching change, caught fire, and ended the season by lifting Lord Stanley above their heads.
April can’t get here soon enough. Beware the Penguins.
The 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense, even without WR Martavis Bryant, may be one of the best scoring offenses you’ll ever see.
With Ben Roethlisberger at the helm of an offense that boasts WR’s Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, and newly acquired TE Ladarius Green as his main receiving options, and RB’s Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the ground, defensive coordinators are already going through bottle’s of Advil in trying to think up ways to stop this offense.
The offensive line, with the addition of T Ryan Harris, will be one of the league’s best.
The Steelers main focus in the upcoming NFL draft will be squarely on defense, but if the chance arises for the Steelers to add another weapon to their offensive arsenal, say like Ohio State’s Braxton Miller or Pitt’s Tyler Boyd, they won’t hesitate to pull the cord if they think it will aide them in adding Lombardi Trophy #7 to the front office trophy case in 2016.
Spring is here and Opening Day for MLB begins at 1:05 pm on Sunday, April 3rd as the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pittsburgh SportsNation’s Pittsburgh Pirate’s Preview will be out as soon the final rosters are set.
Know this… Andrew McCutchen is 100% healthy and raring to go. It’s early, but he looks primed to take back control of being the National League MVP.