TCU, Dixon still have ‘details to work out’ in attempt to fill basketball opening

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon implores his team during a Dec. 23, 2015, game against Western Carolina.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon implores his team during a Dec. 23, 2015, game against Western Carolina. AP

TCU continues to work on its “first choice,” Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, to fill its basketball coaching vacancy.

But some obstacles remain in the effort to hire the former TCU player, a person close to the discussions said late Sunday night.

“Just some details to work out,” the source said.

The person said Dixon is TCU’s first choice but that the decision rests with Dixon, who would be embarking on a rebuilding project. Another person close to the basketball program at TCU said the sides could be waiting to see if Dixon can negotiate a settlement with Pitt on his reported $10 million buyout.

“It may fall apart as there are some stumbling blocks,” the source said.

CBS reporter Jon Rothstein told CBS Sports Radio that Dixon has not told his staff at Pitt of a move and that “nothing is immiment.”

Adam Zagoria of tweeted that TCU is offering to double Dixon’s salary.

The person close to the TCU discussions said a decision could come in the next few days “one way or another.”

Pitt recruiting web site @PghSportsNow said this is as close as Dixon has come to leaving Pitt and that an announcement could come Monday.

Another sign emerged that Dixon has moved closer to deciding. Pittsburgh radio producer Ben Livingston tweeted that Dixon is giving indications he is ready to move on.

Dixon, under contract at Pitt until 2023, makes $3.2 million a year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Former TCU coach Trent Johnson made $1.66 million, according to the school’s most recent publically available tax filing.

TCU is attracted to Dixon for a number of reasons, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

Among the considerations are that Dixon is a former TCU player, is a consistent winner as a head coach, has never been in NCAA trouble, would be popular with fans and alumni, understands TCU’s basketball history and has a connection with athletic director Chris Del Conte.

“Most of our money people associate him and his teams as the best era of TCU basketball,” the source said.

TCU was 62-28 in three seasons from 1984-85 to 1986-87, tying for first and finishing first in the Southwest Conference. Jamie Dixon made a last-second shot to beat Texas in 1986.

Dixon played on the 1985-86 team that went 22-9 and tied for first in the Southwest Conference. He made a last-second shot to defeat Texas that season, which included two games in the NIT for the Horned Frogs.

TCU was 62-28 from 1984-85 to 1986-87, Jim Killingsworth’s last three seasons as coach.

Dixon has taken the Panthers to 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including three Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight. This year’s team was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Del Conte did not return messages for comment Sunday. He was not at the TCU baseball games on Saturday and Sunday or at the TCU women’s NIT game on Saturday night.

Del Conte and Dixon strengthened their relationship in 2011, when Dixon put in a good word for his former school when it was trying to join the Big East.

4Seasons the previous two TCU coaches have lasted. Trent Johnson was fired last week after four seasons. Jim Christian left in 2012 for a job at Ohio University.

TCU reportedly tried and failed to hire Dixon four years ago, unable to work out a salary, before turning to Johnson. A source said Del Conte is taking bigger charge of the search this time than four years ago, working with a handful of trustees rather than a search firm.

TCU is likely more attractive to Dixon now. The Horned Frogs have moved to the Big 12 and invested in facilities. Pitt, meanwhile, has changed conferences, moving from the Big East to the ACC. Since moving to the ACC, the Panthers have been fifth and twice tied for ninth place.

A tweet from CBS reporter Gary Parrish on Sunday afternoon indicated interest on Dixon’s part in the opening in Fort Worth.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

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