TCU Horned Frogs basketball coach Jamie Dixon at Rotary Club luncheon
It’s no secret that Jamie Dixon’s roots run deep at TCU.
Anyone who’s spent any time around the TCU golf program knows it’s the same for longtime coach Bill Montigel, now in his 28th year with the Frogs.
Montigel was originally hired as an assistant basketball coach under Jim Killingsworth, the last coach to lead the Horned Frogs to a win in the NCAA Tournament. Montigel became TCU’s golf coach after Killingsworth announced his retirement following the 1987 season.
Eventually, Montigel sent a son to TCU to play under former coach Trent Johnson.
A lot of guys are fast or quick, but they become easier to guard if that’s all they do. But I liked that Jamie could play the game at different speeds.
TCU men’s golf coach Bill Montigel on his early recollections of Jamie Dixon
That’s not where the connection between Dixon and Montigel ends, either. In fact, those late 1980s TCU teams serve as a good enough starting point in the story Dixon relived Friday as the keynote speaker at the Fort Worth Rotary Club’s meeting at the Fort Worth Club.
As a young assistant coach, Montigel saw something in Dixon, a 6-foot-1 guard out of North Hollywood, Calif., enough to stick to Dixon just a little closer than his competition on the recruiting trail. Dixon wasn’t reinventing basketball. He wasn’t flying out of the gym, but there was something there.
“A lot of guys are fast or quick, but they become easier to guard if that’s all they do,” Montigel said. “But I liked that Jamie could play the game at different speeds. He was smart. You could tell he was a gym rat, so I loved his passion for basketball.”
[Montigel] believed in me when I was 6-1 and about 155 pounds. I was 17, looked like I was about 12 and behaved like I was 11.
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon
Looking back, Dixon remembered himself a little differently.
“[Montigel] believed in me when I was 6-1 and about 155 pounds,” Dixon said. “I was 17, looked like I was about 12 and behaved like I was 11.”
Nevertheless, Montigel recruited Dixon, and Dixon signed on. He was on his way to Fort Worth, of all places.
After Dixon’s “miracle” 1986 buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Texas, Southwest Conference titles in his junior and senior seasons and an All-SWC selection in 1987, coming back home to find Montigel at the head of one of TCU’s proudest programs would have been poetic enough circumstances for rekindling the relationship.
But there’s still another layer to the story; another generation really.
Surely the two have found a minute here or there for knowing handshakes and reminiscing, between the whirlwind of pulls on Dixon’s time since being installed as the program’s 22nd head coach.
It’s kind of cool the way it happened, and to be here to see him develop, but the most gratifying thing is that the guy earns it, is a hard worker and does a good job.
Jamie Dixon on Thomas Montigel, the Frogs’ new operations coordinator
But as soon as he got back and hit the ground running on everything from assembling a crack team of assistants to recruiting (all without an office, which will be finished next week, he said), he noticed a certain graduate assistant roaming the Schollmaier hallways with a gym-rat reputation rivaling his own and a penchant for overachieving.
“I didn’t even know he was on staff until I got out here. He was quiet; he was to himself initially,” Dixon said of Thomas Montigel, whom he promoted last month to operations coordinator. “I realized after a month here all the things he was getting done for us and how bright and hard working he was. It’s kind of cool the way it happened, and to be here to see him develop, but the most gratifying thing is that the guy earns it, is a hard worker and does a good job.”
Thomas Montigel was the same as a player. Though he played just seven minutes a game his senior season and only had 10 total field goals in his playing career at TCU, his teammates and coaches paid tribute to his hard work for four years by giving him a start in the final game of his senior season against Oklahoma in 2014.
He spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant while getting a master’s degree in liberal arts at TCU, but growing up under the roof of the man who recruited his current boss, Thomas didn’t have much of a choice in being a Horned Frog for life. Dixon’s promotion of Thomas Montigel just turned the relationship around full circle.
Now, all three are prominent figures in what the purple-clad masses in Fort Worth hope to be TCU’s return to the national college basketball conversation.