Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 28, 2015

Jamie Dixon

Pittsburgh Panthers

Q. You came into the league a couple years ago making some really good noise with the style of play, with your student-athletes. Last year dropped back a little bit in the record, win-loss column. Is that a concern at all?
COACH DIXON: Sure, yeah. I don't think for this year it is, but it was a concern last year. But we're a whole new team. I think we're deeper. We've got more guys. We've got to be better, and we are. There's no question.

Got to stay healthy. I think we lost some guys -- the guys we were practicing with up until the season started weren't the guys we had once we got into play, and so -- but I like our group. I like what we're doing. We're deep, deeper than we have been, and we've got 13 scholarship guys all healthy, and all good players.

They're all ACC-level players, and three good walk-ons, so I think it's a very good, deep bunch, and I think we'll get better because of the competitive practices, and that's certainly what we've seen so far.

Q. You've got a couple key senior leaders returning. What do you look for from them this year?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, that's interesting because we've got the leader in James Robinson, then we have three graduate transfers that are seniors, and that has never happened for us and won't happen again, I'm sure, but just how things played out. It's interesting. We've got five -- six new players, but yet five of them are -- two of them are junior college guys and the other three are graduate transfers and then one freshman. What might seem young with six newcomers is a little bit more experienced, more physically ready than your typical newcomers because they're fifth-year guys or graduate transfers.

James provides the leadership as far as the fifth-year, the senior; and then we've got juniors that have all played a lot of minutes. In some ways we went from a very young team into a very experienced team, and that's hard to do in one year, but with our -- with the returning guys and then the additions we had, adding six guys, we got good as experienced as you could get.

Q. Robinson's assist-to-turnover ratio is really high. Can you quantify all the things he does for your team?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, he's just an unselfish leader. He's a winner, and I think the guys really do respect that. The assist-to-turnover ratio, I was told today that he's on track for the ACC all-time record, I guess. I know it's been amongst the best in the country his three years as a starter, and that doesn't surprise me, but I didn't know they kept that as an official stat.

But he's certainly a great point guard. It's almost like I've talked to him about being a little more aggressive, shooting the ball, catching and shooting, and to give him confidence, too, and let him now how much we believe in his decision making, I want him to be more aggressive. And if that does turn into a few more turnovers, we can live with it.

But I want him to play confident. I want him to play like a four-year starter that he is. I think that's something that we'll see. Obviously it was a tough off-season for him because he was out for about 14 weeks with a broken foot, but he's gradually gotten better here in these practices and had his best couple these last five. It's great to have a senior guard like that who's so -- who has done the things that he's done, and I think he's certainly going to have his best year of his career.

Q. (Inaudible.)
COACH DIXON: Yeah, I do. I think the conditioning thing is coming still. I think we're in good shape, though, with it. I really do. I think weight has been an issue, something we've had to monitor with him, and obviously the broken foot didn't help that.

But I think he's in good position right now, and I do think the conditioning is about as good as it could be, and we continue to challenge and push on that area.

Q. You talked about the offense being more aggressive. Defensively you only had six foul-outs last year, so are your guys playing tight enough defense or do they need to be more aggressive? Not that you want more DQs, but is there something within that number?
COACH DIXON: I think there is. I think we weren't very good defensively. I think we weren't very aggressive, and it's something we hadn't been in that position before. I think given our depth, we had guys playing way too many minutes. But at the same time they certainly didn't want to be off the floor because of fouling out. So similar to what I think we're going to do here going forward with the rules and the tighter calling of fouls, I think players are going to adjust because nobody wants to foul out.

But I think the depth is going to be most important for us, having more guys, especially interior guys, that's really what we were lacking last year that hurt us defensively. We were playing our big guys way too many minutes, and it cost us, especially on the defensive end.

Q. Earlier today you and the rest of the head coaches had a chance to sit with J.D. Collins, the new head of officiating. Obviously the hand checking and the freedom of play. What type of questions did you guys have of J.D. during that meeting?
COACH DIXON: I think just clarification of some of the rules. I mean, on paper when you saw them as they came out, I think it brought certain questions, unique sets, unique plays that may occur with it. I think that was the biggest thing. I think things come out of it as you go through practice, too, and how you interpret this and how you interpret that.

I don't know that anything was asked. I think the main thing everybody kind of tends to be talking about is the regionalization of officials and putting them and maybe working together as conferences to keep -- to limit travel to some degree for the officials. So I think that was something that was brought up, as well.

But you know, I think getting everybody on one page, and I think having one official overseeing those regions is something that everybody is looking forward to.

Q. How long do you think it'll take before you and your staff figure out what type of officiating practices are in play for you guys to know, all right, here's where we are now?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, I think there's going to be a process. We've brought officials in, ACC officials in for our scrimmages and some practices, as well, and then we'll have a scrimmage against another opponent here coming up in an exhibition game. So I think it's going to be a process. I think as soon as guys start finding that they're going to be sitting on the bench because of fouls, they're going to adjust and figure that out.

Will they sustain it? Will they continue to call it the same way, call it as tight? That's the question we're all asking. I do believe that's going to be the case. I think it's a mandate that's much stronger than it has been in the past, and it's something we're going to be dealing with the entire year.

I think it's good. I think there's a concerted effort by everybody involved, and I think our players will certainly adjust because they don't want to sit on the bench.

Q. Two years ago you battled very much for one of the top four positions. Last year not so much. In order to get back to where you were two years ago, what has to happened on the offensive end of the floor and what has to happen on the defensive end of the floor?
COACH DIXON: It was interesting, as the year went on, this past year we had the injuries and the suspension, had our depth down and kind of people wrote us off at the start of the year. Then we started playing well and we just didn't finish well down the stretch. We were actually right in position to be right in that top four area except for our finish down the stretch.

I think it's -- we're a different team. We can talk about what happened there, what happened in the past, but we're a team that I think we're more used to a team that we're more accustomed too, I should say, and the depth I think is the best thing that we can say about our team. That's the biggest improvement, and we've always been a good team, a good defensive team, and people asked us why, and I always thought it was because of our depth. Our depth made us a better defensive team. We didn't have it last year, and our defense wasn't where it normally is. So that to me reaffirmed what I've been saying over the years and what we had thought.

I like this group. They're unselfish. They care about each other, and simply put, our practices are going to be more competitive, and we're going to have options, and we're going to just have more bodies to throw in, especially interior-wise because I think that's where we really got hurt defensively.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #174 at 2015-10-28 20:26:00 GMT

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