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Departed center Birch airs gripes with Pitt's program
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Former Pitt player Khem Birch, who decided to transfer in December, aired some of his grievances against coach Jamie Dixon and former teammates Monday morning on 93.7 The Fan.

Birch, a highly touted recruit who earned McDonald's All-American status coming out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, shed some new light on the relationships he had with Dixon and teammates. He said some of his former teammates felt "threatened" by him.

"I felt like, just coming in as an All-American, they didn't try to embrace me or anything," he said. "I think some felt threatened."

Birch, who will enroll at UNLV next week, said he began to have second thoughts when assistant coach Pat Skerry left for the head coaching position at Towson State. Skerry was the main recruiter on Birch and the two had developed a close relationship that has since deteriorated.

After arriving in town and playing in Dixon's system, which he deemed too rigid, Birch said the lack of relationships on the team and the team's style was the impetus for his leaving the team.

"When I was there, they said, 'We don't slow the ball down. We're the third-leading scoring team in the Big East. We don't slow the ball down,' " he said. "They said with all the athletes that were coming in that we were going to be more of an up-tempo team."

Birch described his relationship with Dixon as distant: "We didn't really connect like that," Birch said. "There was no relationship formed. Like, you know, I wouldn't call him to tell him how I felt and all of that."

He said he only had two relationships with players on the team and described other players on the team as acquaintances. Some of those acquaintances were selfish players, Birch said.

"I remember when some people didn't get what they wanted, during a half, if they didn't score a certain amount of points, during halftime, it would be silence from those players. It wasn't like they were happy. Even if we were winning, they would just get mad because they didn't get what they wanted."

"We're definitely not a selfish team. That's his opinion," guard Ashton Gibbs said. "He's elsewhere now. I'm not worried about him. I wish him the best of luck."

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
Check out Ray Fittipaldo's Pitt B-Ball blog and Paul Zeise's Pitt Stop videos about football exclusively on PG+, a members-only web site from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Our introduction to PG+ gives you all the details.
First published on January 17, 2012 at 12:00 am