December 16, 2016
Horned Frog Basketball’s favorite son is back, building an exciting future at what he calls “a new TCU.”
TCU men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon '87. Dixon was hired to replace Trent Johnson in March 2016, becoming the 22nd coach in the program's history. Photo by Leo Wesson.
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As a basketball player, James “Jamie” Dixon ’87 helped lead TCU to two Southwest Conference titles. Last March, he returned as the Horned Frogs’ head coach after a successful 13-year tenure at the University of Pittsburgh. At Pitt, Dixon guided the Panthers to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, including three Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight. Dixon was named the Naismith Coach of the Year in 2009.
At Pittsburgh, you regularly guided the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament. What made TCU, a program that has struggled in recent seasons, an attractive destination?
I’d like to think, obviously, that it was out of love for my university. But for me to come back, everything had to be in place and the timing had to work out right. All of those things are in place: the rise in academics and the state of the athletic department have raised the profile of TCU. The university’s status in the Big 12 is another key piece, and then we have outstanding leadership here with Chancellor Victor Boschini and Athletic Director Chris Del Conte. All those things work together to make this an attractive destination. Then there’s the city: the resurgence and the growth of Fort Worth. And then you have the state of Texas and all the great players in this area and across the state. For so many reasons, this was a great fit.
What kind of program can you build at TCU, and how difficult do you think it will be to get there?
I felt we could build something new here. Obviously, we know we’re going to have to improve in some areas. But we believe everything is in place to do that. We were conference champions back in the Southwest Conference days when we were as good as [any] conference in the country. I do believe this is a new TCU. We’re not going to be able to attract recruits based on anything our program has done in the last 30 years. Our future is what we have to sell. They’ve got to see what I see. And I believe we’re going to get there.
Some recruiting services have your 2017 class ranked in the top 10. Fans are buzzing. How did you attract such a strong class, featuring three four-star recruits, so quickly?
It’s great that fans are excited about it. I planned on this. I believed we could attract great players. I’m obviously surprised we were able to get those guys in the spring. They’re all smart and great kids and great basketball players. We want to attract top players from the area and the state and from around the world.
What is your impression of the new Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena?
I think [the arena] fits the university. I think it is a place that will represent the university in a great manner. We’re going to be on national TV more than a dozen times a year, and it’s a perfect venue to show off the spirit and enthusiasm of the university.
What is it like to join a coaching fraternity that includes football’s Gary Patterson and baseball’s Jim Schlossnagle, two of the best in their sports?
I’ve known them both over the years. I’ve watched their programs grow and develop. I’ve been around to ask advice and ideas about how to run a program at TCU. They’ve been more than helpful and great friends.
You’re famous for a contested 35-foot shot you sank at the buzzer to beat Texas in 1986. Do people still ask you about that shot?
I’ve always had basketball fans ask me about the shot. And since I’ve gotten back here, it’s amazing how many people say they were there or saw the shot and how fondly they remember it. There’s worse things to be known for. And people have a smile on their face when they tell me about it. So it’s a good thing to be remembered for.
What convinced a West Coast kid to come to TCU in the 1980s?
The Southwest Conference at the time was one of the best conferences in the country. Arkansas and Texas were always good, and it was the time of Phi Slamma Jamma (at Houston). Then you had Baylor and Texas Tech that were very good at the time too. It was considered by some to be the premier conference. Fort Worth was definitely quite a change for someone who had grown up in Hollywood and spent summers in the Bronx, but it was a great time.
You had an outstanding playing career at TCU. What career accomplishments stand out most to you?
We won two conference titles, and I led the conference in assists as a senior and was all-conference. But I think sometimes coaches get remembered as being greater players than maybe they were.
Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
— As told to Mark Wright
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Emily Farris, assistant professor of political science at TCU, published an article in the Washington Post on May 30.
The TCU running back placed fifth for the 1984 Heisman Trophy.