TCU to hire former player Jamie Dixon to lead basketball team

Jamie Dixon signals to his players during Pitt’s game against Notre Dame on Jan. 9 at South Bend, Ind.
Jamie Dixon signals to his players during Pitt’s game against Notre Dame on Jan. 9 at South Bend, Ind. AP

TCU, reaching into its past for a new basketball coach, will hire Jamie Dixon out of Pitt to bring a championship pedigree to a long-struggling program.

The former TCU player led Pitt to three Big East titles and 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 13 seasons as head coach, more trips to the “Big Dance” than the Horned Frogs have in their history. Dixon, 50, was TCU’s No. 1 candidate following the dismissal of Trent Johnson on March 13.

The Horned Frogs scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Schollmaier Arena. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte on Monday tweeted a photo with himself, Dixon and others with the words “Look who’s coming home.”

“I was 17 years at Pitt. That is a long, long time in today’s game,” Dixon told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “TCU was a great opportunity for me to get a fresh start.”

Dixon comes to TCU with a 328-113 record (.727) in 13 seasons at Pitt. That accounts for more wins than any previous Horned Frogs coach. He was the Big East coach of the year in 2004, the Naismith coach of the year in 2009, the Jim Phelan coach of the year in 2010 and the Sporting News coach of the year in 2011.

Dixon’s 2008-09 Pitt team earned the school’s first No. 1 ranking.

But he is coming off two disappointing seasons since the Panthers’ move to the ACC. They were tied for ninth in the league each of the last two seasons, and Friday they were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — Pitt’s earliest exit since Dixon’s second year.

Jamie Dixon will become the 22nd TCU basketball coach. The previous three coaches lasted six, four and four seasons.

TCU is welcoming him home, however, to lift the Horned Frogs’ fortunes in basketball. The Frogs have not had a 20-win season in more than a decade and haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1998.

Dixon was paid $3.2 million per year with incentives at Pitt. Johnson made $1.66 million in 2013, according to the school’s latest publicly available tax filing. Dixon was under contract until 2023 at Pitt with a buyout reported to be $10 million.

Reports said TCU was willing to double Dixon’s salary, but sources said the parties ultimately were ready to agree to less.

Johnson was given a six-year contract when he was hired in 2011.

.658 Winning percentage in the Big East for Jamie Dixon, a conference record. His Pitt teams were 127-66 in league games.

Dixon and TCU have tried to come together before. He was reportedly the school’s first choice four years ago following the exit of Jim Christian, who left for Ohio University after four years in Fort Worth.

Dixon has a relationship with Del Conte that helped TCU get an invitation to join the Big East in 2011.

“Big difference for me was that I know these people at TCU,” Dixon told the Post-Gazette. “I’ve known the AD for a long time. Those other jobs, I didn’t know those people.”

Dixon played on the 1985-86 TCU team that shared first place in the Southwest Conference and the 1986-87 team that won the league. He hit a last-second shot to win a game against Texas in 1986.

Dixon is a North Hollywood, Calif., native who was an all-league player at Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame High School. He was an all-conference and all-academic player at TCU in 1987, leading the team in assists.

He was drafted in 1987 by the Washington Bullets and played professionally in the CBA and in New Zealand.

He coached one year in New Zealand before coming to the United States to coach at a community college in California, moving on to assistant positions at UC Santa Barbara — Del Conte’s alma mater — Hawaii, Northern Arizona and Pitt. He became the head coach at Pitt in 2003.

TCU basketball coaches J.R. Langley, 2-3 Oscar Wise, 1-4 Frederick Cahoon, 11-12 E.Y. Freeland, 1-3 T.D. Hackney, 1-7 W.L. Diver, 8-7 John McKnight, 3-13 Matty Bell, 71-41 Francis Schmidt, 72-24 Dutch Meyer, 10-37 Mike Brumbelow, 22-64 Hub McQuillan, 66-104 Buster Brannon, 205-259 Johnny Swain, 102-151 Tim Somerville, 10-43 Jim Killingsworth, 130-106 Moe Iba, 96-108 Billy Tubbs, 156-95 Neil Dougherty, 75-108 Jim Christian, 56-73 Trent Johnson, 50-79

At Pitt, Dixon set an NCAA Division I record with 163 wins after six seasons and another Division I record with 216 wins after eight seasons. He won three Big East championships, two regular-season titles and one conference title.

Pitt earned its first No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament in 2009 and 2011. The Panthers reached three Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight under Dixon.

Dixon played in the last NCAA win for TCU, a 76-60 victory against Marshall on March 12, 1987. He scored 11 points in 40 minutes.

Dixon coached 23 NCAA Tournament games at Pitt, going 12-11. TCU has played in 12 all-time, going 5-7.

The previous three TCU coaches — Johnson, Jim Christian and Neil Daugherty — combined for 181 victories over the previous 14 seasons.

But they did not have the advantages of a renovated facility and a university commitment to basketball that Dixon will find when he arrives in Fort Worth — his former home.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

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