Basketball in Fort Worth has a storied past and a bright future.
Never has the case been made quite as clearly as it has been made this year, though, as a sleepy TCU program awoke in coach Jamie Dixon’s first year for its first NIT championship, Texas Wesleyan brought home an NAIA national title, and Dr. Robert Hughes was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Any basketball fan around town can tell you, these are not things that happen every year.
The trio of achievements was honored Thursday by the city of Fort Worth with a pep rally at Sundance Square Plaza. Mayor Betsy Price led the crowd of about 300 in cheers for each team before handing out certificates of achievement to members of both teams and inviting Hughes onstage for a word.
He offered, at age 88, one of his many quotes that have stood the test of time, on the importance of actions over words.
“If you have to tell me you are, you ain’t,” Hughes said.
Hughes was a coach in Fort Worth ISD for 47 years. He led teams from Fort Worth Dunbar, and before that, I.M. Terrell, to 35 district titles and five state championships. His overall coaching record was 1,333-247 when he retired in 2005.
Dixon returned to his alma mater, where as a player in 1986 he nailed an off-balance, buzzer-beating 35-foot 3-pointer, later dubbed the “Jamie Dixon Miracle,” to beat Texas.
As a coach he won national coach of the year honors four times at Pittsburgh before leading his first TCU team to a 24-15 record a year after the Horned Frogs had won just 12 games.
“If you’d written our season, it’d be a pretty good story,” Dixon said. “You just want your teams to get better as the season goes along, and that’s what we did.”
For Wesleyan, the 2016-17 season marked the program’s second NAIA national championship. The Rams won it all in 2006 as well. Senior guard Dion Rogers was named first-team NAIA All-American after averaging 19.7 points and five rebounds per game for coach Brennen Shingleton’s group.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817