Mac Engel

Had Jamie Dixon approached TCU first it would have worked with him to land UCLA job

Jamie Dixon and the TCU basketball team were on a chartered plane to New York City when news broke that the chosen son head coach of the Horned Frogs basketball team was in discussions with UCLA.

Sources said that did not sit well with university administrators, some of whom were across the aisle from the players and coaching staff on a plane that was headed for the NIT semifinals.

Sources said that had Dixon approached TCU officials first about his desire to potentially accept the same position at UCLA that the school would have likely worked with the coach to make that deal happen. That because Dixon, or his agent, did not approach them first, irritated the decision makers, including influential boosters.

At that point, Dixon leaving became, “You can go, but you owe us.”

Now that Dixon is “secure” as the head coach at TCU, and UCLA hired Mick Cronin from Cincinnati, more details about the UCLA interview process have, predictably, leaked. None of them make TCU, or Dixon, look great.

The Los Angeles Times reported that UCLA had gone so far as to prepare a nameplate for an office, and to gather information to prepare a press release to announce Dixon as its coach. That was to happen shortly after TCU lost its NIT semifinal game on April 2 against Texas.

TCU administrators openly commented how awkward the return flight for the basketball team to Fort Worth was on April 3; many of them assumed Dixon was going to L.A., and only a small number of people knew the specifics.

It is yet another illustration of the cold blooded depths of amateur athletics.

There is a reason why school officials repeatedly said there was no negotiation; they were not budging from their buyout figure of more than $8 million for the coach. Someone had to come up with that money for Dixon to get out from his contract, and there would be no discount.

Feelings were hurt, and some of the people in power were none too pleased how this made TCU look; they felt blindsided.

Know this, TCU administrators spun this as much as the head coach himself and precisely no one looks good in how this all played out.

If you remember, TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini told myself and two other members of the media on April 5 that Dixon was their coach; the implication was this matter was settled.

According to the story in the LA Times, he and/or his agent were still trying to come up with the money to cover the buyout after Boschini told reporters this was no longer an issue.

There is a reason why Dixon did not publicly address this situation until April 9. Dixon had accepted he was not moving to Los Angeles.

UCLA hired Cronin, and a job Dixon clearly wanted was gone.

I told Dixon on April 9, “If you wanted that job, and they would not let you out, I am sorry for you and your family.”

Our parents are around for only so long, and no one replaces them.

Dixon didn’t say much other than that he is happy to be at TCU; that his family is happy to be here, and that he has a great job and that he’s excited about building the program.

All things can be true. In this case, all of the things are true.

He has a good job, and his family is in a great spot. All of this has had zero effect on recruiting, as Dixon and his staff have landed decent players already.

In this era of college basketball, everyone is vulnerable to leave 10 minutes after arrival.

TCU should have let him go not because he doesn’t want to be here, but because UCLA is a job that makes sense for his career, and his family. There are some moves where a school looks at a coach and simply says, “Understand. Thanks for everything. We love you, and good luck.”

This situation is similar to when Roy Williams left Kansas for North Carolina in 2003. KU fans were hurt their coach left, but Roy returning to North Carolina was a chance for him to go home. In some instances, you don’t deny a coach that chance.

UCLA is that one job for Jamie Dixon. It’s not as if he was flirting with Washington State, San Diego State or Vanderbilt. Or even USC.

UCLA is a damaged brand, but it’s still UCLA. Dixon’s parents live in the same L.A. house he in grew up in, and they are not growing any younger.

Everyone involved here, from the head coach to the administrators, looks disheveled and messy from this. Everyone could have handled it better.

Maybe had he approached TCU administrators immediately, he is now the head coach at UCLA. The truth was he badly wanted the job, and he was working at landing it well after TCU said he was not.

It will all blow over, but the next staff meeting should be fun.

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