As elite college basketball coaching matchups go, Fort Worth rarely has been the backdrop for anything similar to what will unfold Friday night in Schollmaier Arena.
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon and Kansas counterpart Bill Self will square off with a combined 942 career victories and 29 NCAA tournament appearances. Self, 54, won the 2008 NCAA title at Kansas. Dixon, 51, led Pittsburgh to 11 NCAA tournament appearances in 13 seasons before taking the TCU job in March.
Dixon calls Self “a future Hall of Famer.” Self considers Dixon, a former Horned Frogs’ player, a new hire who will “do a lot of good at TCU. It’s just a matter of time.”
Friday’s contest in Fort Worth (8 p.m., ESPN2) marks the first head-to-head coaching matchup between the two. But it’s not the first time the two have been on opposing sidelines.
That came on a Tuesday afternoon in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Dec. 19, 1995. Self’s Oral Roberts team played Northern Arizona, where Dixon was an assistant to coach Ben Howland.
I’ve gone against a lot of Hall of Famers and he’ll be the next one. I know he’s nominated this year and it’s just a matter of time before he gets in.
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon, on facing Kansas counterpart Bill Self for the first time as a head coach
The teams met in a matinee performance at the Walkup Skydome, a venue that doubles as home to NAU’s basketball and football teams. Dixon recalled the contest fell just short of a sellout in a building with a listed capacity of 16,000 at the time (subsequently downsized to 11,230).
“I think there were three people in the gym,” Dixon said.
Self begs to differ.
“We counted them. I had my assistant count them and he counted all the maintenance people, too,” Self said. “There were about 20 people.”
Ever since, Dixon said the running joke between the two has centered on the day when “more players than fans” gathered for a matchup between teams led by the future coaches of Kansas and UCLA, where Howland worked from 2003-13.
Empty seats should be in short supply Friday when Dixon prepares to match strategic moves with an iconic coach for the first time in his TCU tenure. Such matchups were common during Dixon’s time at Pitt, where he was 18-11 against Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, a pair of Hall of Fame coaches, during a stretch when all three programs were members of the Big East.
Dixon eventually upped his mark against Boeheim to 15-6 after Pitt and Syracuse moved to the ACC, including a 3-0 mark last season. Now, he draws a matchup against Self in his Big 12 debut at TCU.
“I’ve gone against a lot of Hall of Famers and he’ll be the next one,” Dixon said. “I know he’s nominated this year and it’s just a matter of time before he gets in. What they’ve done is amazing, with 12 consecutive conference championships. We’ll go out and do our best.”
I had my assistant count them and he counted all the maintenance people, too. There were about 20 people.
Kansas coach Bill Self, reflecting on a 1995 matchup when he coached Oral Roberts and Dixon was an assistant at Northern Arizona, the lone time they have been on opposite sidelines in a college game
During Dixon’s 10 seasons as a coach in the Big East’s glory days, his best in conference games yielded a 127-66 record and a .658 winning percentage. That percentage is higher than the Big East winning percentages posted by Boeheim (.653), Calhoun (.630), Georgetown’s John Thompson (.656), Louisville/Providence’s Rick Pitino (.651) or St. John’s Lou Carnesecca (.633).
But the question is whether Dixon can translate that success to TCU, which has a combined mark of 8-64 in its first four seasons in the Big 12. Guard Brandon Parrish, a senior from Arlington Seguin, said the Frogs’ 11-1 start has infused a level of confidence among players that is “through the roof” as they prepare to face the Jayhawks.
“They’re winners. They’ve definitely shown they’re a team that’s going to win games, year in and year out,” Parrish said of Kansas. “But I believe our team is just as talented, if not more talented, than any of the teams in the Big 12. A big win here makes a huge statement. We have a really good thing going. If we come out and play our best, I think we’ll be fine.”
29 Combined NCAA tournament appearances for teams led by Kansas coach Bill Self (18) and TCU coach Jamie Dixon (11).
TCU does own one victory over Kansas in the Big 12 era, a 62-55 upset on Feb. 6, 2013 under former coach Trent Johnson. But no player on the current roster was part of the TCU program at that time. Neither was Dixon.
Parrish said the Frogs understand the challenge at hand and have “come back really hungry” from their Christmas break in recent practices. Dixon said having five practices to prepare for Kansas since the team’s last game, a 74-42 victory over Bradley on Dec. 21, has its pluses and minuses.
“Usually, when you’ve got a team coming up, you’ve got two days to prepare for them. With this deal, we’ve had five days of practice,” Dixon said. “We were able to put some new things in. But so were they. So it’s a little different from that regard.”
So, too, is a matchup in Fort Worth between coaches with a combined 29 NCAA tournament appearances. But that’s on the table Friday for Dixon-Self, the latest fresh wrinkle for TCU men’s basketball.
TCU men vs. Kansas
8 p.m. Friday, ESPN2