TCU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson is on the road recruiting, which should be a sign that he will return for a fifth season.
According to a source, however, Johnson is scheduled to meet with members of the TCU administration on Sunday evening when a decision is expected to be made then.
A strong case can be made to dump TJ but he deserves one more year. The only way I would not retain TJ is if former TCU player and current head Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon wants to leave.
So far TJ’s boss, athletic director Chris Del Conte, has yet to address this issue - which is an issue when he said he would not talk about TJ’s status after TCU’s season ended in the second round of the Big 12 tournament March 9.
Del Conte hired Johnson and he needs to solve this now. Immediately after the 2010-’11 season, Del Conte confirmed that then head coach Jim Christian would return despite the team’s third consecutive losing year.
CDC has thus far avoided answering any questions about Johnson’s return.
At issue is what does TCU want to be with its men’s basketball program. There is a clear delineation in big-time men’s basketball between the programs that are comfortable pushing the edge and those that prefer to play it safe and at least try to do it the “right way.”
This is going to be Del Conte’s call, but there are parties involved who do not want to see Johnson return while others would like to see him have one more year. He has two years remaining on his original six-year contract.
If he is fired, TCU will employ a fifth head men’s basketball coach this century.
You can fault Johnson for not winning, but he is a good man and a good coach who takes his role as a mentor to young people seriously. He has had one winning record since he arrived but the program has been clean. He just needs players.
If Johnson is fired, it will be a clear signal the athletic department is ready to push the edge and open the door on “guys.” That’s “guys” who come with baggage and can give a place a reputation, but they might put together a winning record.
No coach at the school was handed a harder job than Johnson. It was not until December of ‘15 did he have all of the necessary toys to sell a recruit. Showing a kid “artist renderings” of an arena does not do much.
TCU is 50-79 in four seasons under TJ, all of which were in the Big 12. This job has been the most difficult Power 5 program in the nation. It has had little support from the fans, earned its third-tier priority behind football and baseball within the department, and has no tradition.
The two previous coaches - the late Neil Dougherty, and Jim Christian - openly complained about the job. Dougherty was a terrible hire and Christian was a better fit for the Mid American Conference.
Unless it was John Calipari, no coach was going to be able to land enough quality recruits to make TCU into a team that could compete in the Big 12 until December when the new arena opened. The Big 12 is going to land seven NCAA tournament teams for the second time in Johnson’s tenure.
Unless he starts brazenly cheating and paying players he had no chance.
Johnson should have a team returning that would give him his best team since he arrived. He will have a team loaded with upper classmen - Brandon Parrish, Kenrich Williams, Chauncey Collins, Malique Trent and Chris Washburn Jr. give this team a legit opportunity to compete. JR Miller can play. Former Texas A&M guard Alex Robinson will be eligible next season.
Combined with a garbage set of non-conference opponents, that roster has a chance to build a record good enough for an NIT bid. Then Johnson will have the chance to build something.
Now that the new arena is open and every toy is in place, it’s on him to land serious players. If he is going to win six to nine Big 12 games a year, he needs more than two Big 12 players on his roster. This season, he had two or three.
He needs to start splitting with Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor. He needs to steal a couple, too and people will notice.
He needs one more year.