As the celebratory strains of Frank Sinatra music blared in Schollmaier Arena, first-year TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon grabbed a microphone to thank fans for their support during a turnaround season that has been extended to next week’s NIT semifinals in New York.
Dixon, a former TCU player, handed off the microphone to one of his four seniors who have helped the Horned Frogs (22-15) boost their win total by 10 over last year’s 12-21 mark. Eventually, all four players addressed the crowd after Tuesday night’s 86-68 rout of Richmond punched TCU’s ticket to Madison Square Garden and triggered the postgame rendition of “New York, New York.”
Dixon, who led Pittsburgh to 11 NCAA Tournament berths in his 13 seasons at the school before taking over the program at his alma mater, called the victory celebration that unfolded in Schollmaier Arena “one of the best moments of my life in coaching” because of what it meant to the Frogs’ four seniors who were part of a team that went 0-18 in Big 12 play during the 2013-14 season: Brandon Parrish, Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn and Michael Williams.
“They’ve been though it a lot. But they love TCU,” Dixon said. “A few years from now, when we win a Big 12 championship and we win a national championship – that’s our goal – those four guys will be the foundation. Those will be the guys they point to because you had to turn it. You had to start somewhere and they started it. I just happened to have four guys that cared more about the score than themselves. That’s what TCU is about ... They laid a foundation and the young guys learned from their sacrifices.”
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TCU resumes its NIT journey Tuesday in New York against the winner of Wednesday night’s Illinois-Central Florida game. Dixon said he is excited about what can be accomplished in New York by the school’s first team to reach the semifinals of any postseason tournament.
“It’s March and this team has gotten better in the last two or three weeks,” Dixon said. “You can’t expect that. You don’t see that very often. But that’s what we’re doing. Every day, we look forward to coaching these guys. And I look forward to coaching them another week.”