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[Bitter] Raw Feelings?

As I said earlier, I am not going to spend much time on Howland-Dixon/Pitt. angle. I am sure the Pucin’s of the world will do John Tesh style write-ups over that storyline. I am pretty sure Coach Howland is not going to spend much time thinking about it, as he and his players are going to be totally immersed in preparations over how to beat a solid Big East team led by an exceptional coach. That said, there are comments coming from Pittsburgh that will do nothing but motivate our coach and players. In today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dixon had this to say about Howland’s departure to Westwood:

Dixon made it known that he thought there were greater heights for the program to achieve.

"To be honest, Ben didn't think we could sustain it," Dixon said during an interview in his office Feb. 21. "He took less money to go to another job, what most people would consider a better job. I've always seen more in [Pitt] than other people did. I have higher expectations than anybody for this job. I know no one thought we could do what we are doing."
I am not sure where Coach Dixon is coming from. I have talked to a few people who are fairly close to Coach Howland and his coaching staff. Coach Howland has nothing but admiration and respect for his former first assistant. And he has nothing but fond memories about the program he built from scratch at Pittsburgh, and the strong foundation he left behind, which enabled a talented coach like Dixon to hit the ground running.

I just don’t understand how so many folks on the East Coast just don't get why Native Southern Californians, who are out on the East Coast, jump at the first great opportunity to come back home. Sure, the unmatched tradition of UCLA's basketball program and it’s natural advantages was the ultimate draw for a coach like Howland, who grew up worshiping Wooden’s teams. However, it is amusing to see how so many people are forgetting the storyline of Howland returning to his Southern California roots, so that he could be close to his Dad, who passed away just few months after he came to UCLA.

As mentioned earlier, Aaron Gray is the Pitt superstar in the middle. He is a kid Coach Howland recruited back in November of 2002. Gray, to his credit, is sounding gracious about the whole situation:
Gray signed his letter of intent when Howland was still Pitt's coach in November 2002. Gray said he spoke with Howland after Howland accepted the UCLA job and does not have any hard feelings toward him for leaving Pitt.

"I talked to him," Gray said. "He told me his situation and why he had made the choice he had made. The position I was in, the only thing I could do was wish him luck. There's no hard feeling or anything like that."
Well, it’s just too bad that a segment of the Pitt fan base is still having a hard time letting it go. Check out some of the rants from commenters on Pitt Blather. PB is actually a very good blog run by Dennis, who does a wonderful job of covering Panther football and hoops. Anyways, from the comments in Dennis’s posts, it is pretty apparent that a number of Pitt fans still have some raw feelings (that’s the most charitable way I can describe it) about Ben Howland leaving the Steel City. Here is one guy picking up on Dixon’s comments referenced above:
He also said that on the radio show after the game. For someone as PC and nice as Dixon, these are pretty harsh words: "To be honest, Ben didn’t think we could sustain it." Fuck him. Let’s kill some bruins.
Then there was this guy spinning out the old MSM line about Wooden’s shadow:
See, Howland could have been the Bo Schembechler, or Dean Smith, JoePa (blecchh), Coach K, etc of Pitt basketball by simply staying with the program that he built. You know, the coach that builds and sustains a bigtime program, and therefore becomes synonymous with it.

But instead, he gave that role to Jamie Dixon in order to go to UCLA and live in John Wooden’s shadow like everyone who coaches out there will until the end of time.
And we will end with this:
Oh by the way! F the West coast, F The Governator, F Hollywood living, F The valley girls that comprise the team from UCLA, and F Ben Howland!

Don’t forget Ben Howland left. We didn’t ask him to leave. He wanted to be the man at UCLA. Let’s hope he regrets that decision a little on Friday morning.
Holy crap. Valley girls on UCLA’s team? Where did that come from? I mean, we have a fan from Pittsburgh, that’s right, Pittsburgh, running smack on valley girls.

By the way, I am not that big fan of the Governator either. But the guy is no Senator "Man On Dog". Neither he is a Trojan Moron like Lynn Swann, who somehow managed to get support from 40 percent of Pennsylvanians. Yikes.

If these guys keep going like this, they are not going to last till Thursday night!!

Anyways, I will try to make this the first and last post on the angle of Pitt fans' feelings over Ben Howland. If any of you are planning to comment on Pitt Blather, which again is run by a great blogger, I urge you to be nothing short of respectful, the same way Coach Howland is to his former protégé and the program he built from ashes.

We have a game to get ready for.