April 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH (AP) -Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has been named the Naismith men's coach of the year after leading the Panthers to a school-record 31 wins and the NCAA tournament regional finals.

The sixth-year head coach also guided Pitt to its first-ever top seed in the tourney and the school's first No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25.

Led by the standout trio of seniors Sam Young and Levance Fields, and sophomore center DeJuan Blair, the Panthers fell short of the Final Four after a loss to Villanova on a last-second layup by Scottie Reynolds.

"It means we had a lot of good players," Dixon said in a phone interview about the coaching award. "It's a reflection of players individually and as a group ... The players developed into better players than may thought (they) would become."

The award is presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, which announced the winner Tuesday. Other finalists were Oklahoma's Jeff Capel, LSU's Trent Johnson and Kansas' Bill Self.

Pitt has won 20 or more games for the eighth straight year. Dixon said he thinks the Panthers have become an elite program, though he added, "We're not where we want to be because we want to win a national championship."

Dixon also said he's spoken with Blair and the center's family about whether Blair should skip his final two years of college to enter the NBA draft. He said Blair wasn't ready to make a decision as of Tuesday.

Blair averaged 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds a game this season.