Mac Engel

TCU basketball secures the coach it wanted for decades

As long as the expectations are appropriate and fans remember this is TCU and not UCLA basketball, Jamie Dixon will be a slam-dunk-from-the-foul-line hire.
As long as the expectations are appropriate and fans remember this is TCU and not UCLA basketball, Jamie Dixon will be a slam-dunk-from-the-foul-line hire. AP

The irony is TCU hired one of the few men with a distinct link to its basketball tradition whose main responsibility will be to continue almost none of it.

Jamie Dixon is finally coming back to Fort Worth as the anointed savior of the TCU men’s basketball program. It only took 20 years to get him here.

Godspeed, Jamie. Your job is to build something that exists in name only.

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte and a handful of TCU trustees convinced Dixon to leave a giant, guaranteed contract at Pittsburgh to return to his alma mater to run what has been one of the worst high major Division I jobs in America.

As long as the expectations are appropriate and fans remember this is TCU and not UCLA basketball, this is a slam-dunk-from-the-foul-line hire by Del Conte and a great day for TCU.

If he builds the equivalent of Baylor under Scott Drew or Texas Tech under Tubby Smith, Dixon can coach here for 15 years and the statue will be erected next to the one being built of Gary Patterson.

This is the guy TCU has wanted for years. Only now was the timing finally right to make this marriage happen. TCU has made itself an attractive place for a name coach, and it was willing to spend the money. It also helped that Dixon’s employer was ready for him to be gone.

According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dixon’s departure was a “very amicable and mutual divorce.” Every other time Dixon flirted with other jobs, Pitt always gave him more.

He had signed a 10-year extension in 2013, and he made $3.2 million in 2014.

When he signed that extension, Dixon said in a press release that he “intends to finish his career at the University of Pittsburgh.”

The school’s move to the ACC and a few losses in the NCAA tournament changed the timeline.

When TCU called this time, Pitt made no efforts to rework his deal with a few more dollars or bonuses. Pitt went so far as to reportedly negotiate a lower buyout than the $10 million in his contract.

Pitt was tired of Dixon and Dixon was tired of Pitt.

The school has a new president, athletic director and the fan base wanted more. The timing of this job change worked.

Now if Dixon can deliver to TCU what he did for Pitt there should be no problems and he will finish his career in the place he began as a player.

In Dixon’s 13 years at Pitt, the team won 20 games every season but once. He went to 11 NCAA tournaments, won two Big East titles, a Big East tournament and reached an Elite Eight. The Panthers were a No. 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA tournament but were upset in the second round on a last-second shot to a Butler team that would reach the national title game.

His program produced a few pros and it was clean. The root of his problems at Pitt was that he never made the Final Four; his teams were never consistently better than the blue bloods it faced as a member of the Big East or ACC.

By comparison, TCU is better than almost no other program. It has one 20-win season since 2002 and two NCAA appearances since 1987.

Dixon was on that team in ’87 when the Frogs reached the second round and lost by one point to Notre Dame. Dixon was a nice player who hit one of the program’s most memorable shots, an off-balance 30-footer at the buzzer to beat Texas in 1986.

In a way, Jamie Dixon is TCU basketball mostly because there are so few other candidates. Dixon is one of the few men who have coached or played at TCU that this program can say, “He’s ours” with pride.

Dixon is in the same category as Kurt Thomas, Mike Jones, Lee Nailon and a handful of other guys this program has produced.

No one should expect Dixon to do for the basketball team what Gary Patterson has done for the football team. There are limitations for every basketball coach in this state.

Texas has not produced a national title since UTEP was Texas Western in 1966. We only have three Final Four teams since 1984 — Houston (twice) and Texas.

No one at TCU should expect Jamie Dixon to turn the Horned Frogs into a national contender. If he does what he did at Pitt, the statue will come and so, too, will a tradition that merits celebration.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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