The Big Mac Blog

The shot clock starts for this TCU coach

Inside from the new Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena at TCU.
Inside from the new Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena at TCU. Star-Telegram

As Kansas has been/is to Power 5 football, TCU is the men’s basketball equivalent. There has not been a more difficult men’s basketball Power 5 conference job than the one here in Fort Worth.

Seven NCAA tournament appearances, the last in 1998, only a couple of NBA guys, and a long history of not winning basketball games are the tradition of TCU basketball.

The job has broken the spirits of many a good man, and previously caused more than a few to run away. After previous head coach Jim Christian left in 2012, TCU director of athletics Chris Del Conte did not have an easy time finding a replacement despite the school’s presence in the Big 12, and the chance of a big check.

He heard “No” frequently before LSU’s Trent Johnson said yes.

Any coach that was in demand knew that TCU was a Big 12 job in name only. The team enjoyed minimal support at a football school in a football state, the facilities lagged behind some high schools, and all of it made recruiting decent talent difficult.

All of this changes at 1 p.m. on Sunday when TCU finally unveils the Ed and Ray Schollmaier Arena against hated rival Abilene Christian. The cost of renovating the old Daniel-Meyer Coliseum was over $70 million, and from a quick tour of the new place the school did not put up any paper bricks here. The new arena is fantastic, and worthy of a visit to a game.

No one expects TCU to make a Final Four any time soon, but with the upgrades this school has made to its basketball facilities means there are no more excuses not to compete for the upper half of the conference, and NCAA appearances. There is potential now to be good.

TCU is not a basketball school, but it went all-in on a new collection of basketball toys, thus putting head coach Trent Johnson on notice. TCU can offer the same things as the other Power 5 schools in the region, with the exception of fan support, of which will require a few wins. If TCU doesn’t win, it will be on him.

He likely has one more season to show improvement or he’s gone. It won’t necessarily be fair, but that’s how these things work. The next guy will enjoy the fruits of this painful construction process.

TCU is 5-4 this season, and 43-62 in four seasons under Johnson. The Horned Frogs finished 18-15 last season, and passed on playing in a pay-to-play post season tournament that players hate, fans avoid, and only gamblers watch.

No one should have expected much more than the results Johnson has delivered. The man had virtually nothing to sell in a basketball league stacked with established talent, one-and-doners, and secure coaches.

The tough part for Trent is that his two “prized” recruits - forward Kaviar Shepherd and guard Brandon Parrish - have been mostly duds. Neither is bad, but they aren’t enough.

A college basketball coach can flip a team if he can land two or three real players, and thus far Johnson has not found one. So far, Johnson’s better players were recruited by Christian - the best being Kyan Anderson. That this team is one game over .500 during this non-conference is a terrible sign for the rest of the season, and the current state of the roster.

Johnson is a good coach, and his teams play hard, structured basketball, but he does not have enough players to compete in the Big 12. Coaching in high major college basketball is 80 percent recruiting, and thus far the players he has landed have ranged from OK to underwhelming.

With the opening of this new arena, Johnson has everything necessary to sell to recruits. There are no more excuses for TCU basketball to the equivalent of Kansas football.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7760, tengel@star-telegram.com, @macengelprof

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