It’s both a warm memory and a sad testament that Jamie Dixon’s 30-foot, last-second prayer to beat Texas is still — 30 years later — the most fondly remembered shot in TCU basketball history.
Think about it. Who’s made the most indelible mark on the Horned Frogs basketball program since Dixon played under the late Jim Killingsworth?
Probably Billy Tubbs, who coached for eight seasons.
And, OK, Sandora Irvin, the school’s best-ever women’s player.
There are no John Woodens, in other words, on the TCU basketball tree. No Selection Sunday watch parties. No Final Four banners.
Since Dutch Meyer took over in 1934 as varsity basketball coach, in fact, the Frogs have had 11 head coaches, and only one — the rascal Tubbs — posted a plus-.500 record in conference play.
Killingsworth, who would belong on the school’s basketball Rushmore if it had one, finished 130-106 overall in eight seasons but only 64-64 in the Southwest Conference.
Why, therefore, would alumnus Jamie Dixon leave the University of Pittsburgh, a school where he’s averaged 25 victories a year for the past 13 seasons, to return to TCU?
It’s a worthy question. But hold that thought.
A better question is what’s gotten into TCU basketball that it wooed a coach with a career .727 winning percentage and who earns $3.2 million per year? Only six NCAA head coaches are paid higher.
Apparently the sandblasting machines that performed the facelift on Daniel-Meyer Coliseum are still blasting.
No coach in the Big East Conference’s blue-blood basketball history had a higher league winning percentage than Dixon’s .658. Not John Thompson, not Jim Boeheim, not Rollie Massimino and not Jim Calhoun.
Dixon was honored as national coach of the year three different times.
When Southern Cal attempted to lure Dixon after the 2013 season, Pitt got him to stay with a 10-year contract extension.
From TCU’s standpoint, hiring Jamie Dixon is like having the Publishers Clearing House guy ring your doorbell. Athletic director Chris Del Conte doesn’t have to cross his fingers and hire some up-and-coming assistant and hope he’ll be the next ... well ... Jamie Dixon.
Del Conte would be energizing the program with a treasured letterman who’s been to the NCAA Tournament 11 times.
That’s not an upgrade. That’s an FBI makeover.
There were suggestions out of Pittsburgh on Sunday that Dixon will stay at Pitt, and that he is just talking to his alma mater and his friend Del Conte out of courtesy. But at the same time, there was a rough online commentary on a Pittsburgh area website that suggested it was time for Dixon to move on.
Chris Mueller of timesonline.com wrote:
“The Panthers are at times exceptionally frustrating to watch, and are coached by a man who seems to have lost his touch, at least compared with his early career.”
The opinion piece took Dixon to task not for his 25 wins per season, but rather for failing to advance the Panthers into the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
After 13 seasons, it’s totally possible that Dixon feels it’s time to move on. The challenges for Pitt basketball have been elevated in the move from the Big East to the ACC.
The two administrators that Dixon was closest to, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and athletic director Steve Pederson, are no longer his bosses.
The new regime reportedly may not be all that concerned about his $10 million contract buyout.
It was Feb. 22, 1986, when Dixon, a sixth-man guard for Killingsworth’s conference-contending Frogs, weaved his way past midcourt and, stumbling and lunging, swished in the 30-foot basket at the buzzer that upended the mighty Longhorns.
I was sitting at courtside that afternoon. I can still hear the roar.
Or maybe that’s the sandblasters.