Bylsma Vs Dixon
Tuesday February 15th, 2011 marked the two-year anniversary of the hiring of Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.
All "Disco" Dan did in two calendar years was direct his hockey team to wins in 100 of
his first 163 games, the fifth fastest in NHL history, not to mention a Stanley Cup Title as a rookie head coach.
It's been an incredible run, and I've been hearing Bylsma get widely praised this week as the anniversary comes and goes, despite the local hockey team mired in a stretch of sincere adversity.
That praise is well deserved. But, is Bylsma Pittsburgh's current most impressive sports-leader of men?
No. That honor is Jamie Dixon's at Pitt.
Not a bad time to be a Pittsburgh sports fan, when Bylsma's run is second best.
First, to pay Bylsma's run proper homage, let's not forget the Pens were 5-points out of a playoff spot in 2009 when Bylsma took over for Michael Therrien. Bylsma inherited talented, sure. But he was the perfect choice with the perfect system at the perfect time in that '08-'09 season. No Dan, no Stan.
However, keeping Pitt hoops nationally relevant for 8-seasons and counting is impossible for Bylsma to top, even with Lord Stanley on the shelf, and even with Dixon missing a Final Four on his resume.
I still can't believe what Pitt Basketball has become and maintained. This is supposed to be the 8th place program in the Big East, a run-of-the-mill stepping stone for Georgetown and Syracuse. At least, that's what the 1990s told us.
And even when Ben Howland changed that culture for a spell, and found a team of scrappy defensive-minded ballers to buy into an outpost-program, the success wasn't supposed to continue.
11-1 in the Big East as a string of 10-straight NCAA Tournament appearances is upon us? A 3-seed or better in said Big Dance every year? A guaranteed 20+ wins, 10+ in conference? An electric home atmosphere every game? A continued team approach without one-and-done NBA bound stars needed to compete? This is basketball in Pittsburgh we're talking about, right?
Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, etc make a coaches' job a whole lot easier. Wannamaker, Brown, Robinson, Gibbs, and McGhee? Who are these guys?
They're the essence of a Jamie Dixon coached team.
Pitt continues to be something to marvel at, like a tree growing in the desert. Like The Jerry Springer Show's success. Like William Hung's overnight sensation. Like "Just Go With It" being the #1 movie at the box office. Like a Styx song becoming the anthem for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
We're watching some great coaches in action these days in Pittsburgh sports, but let's not lose sight of the most incredible job of the bunch, that of Jamie Dixon over on the Oakland campus.