It seems like the TCU fanbase is split over the firing of basketball coach Trent Johnson. Some feel as if he needed another year to really get things rolling, while others had seen plenty to make the call that things weren't going to get better with him at the helm.
We decided to chat with some of the staff to see how the FOW folks were taking things. (We'd also really like to see your answers to the questions down in the comments!)
How do you feel now that Trent Johnson has been fired?
andrewfelts: This entire situation is very intriguing. The coaching search will be interesting to watch over the next few days and weeks. The fact that this news broke around 11:00 pm on a Sunday night makes me think that Chris Del Conte has been studying the market and perhaps even has reached out to other coaches already. While TCU doesn't have any notable history in men's basketball, this isn't necessarily a bad job. The team's roster has some decent talent set to return, the $72-million Schollmaier Arena is one of the nicest facilities in the country, nearly every game is on national television, and the Frogs are competing in the best basketball conference in the country. I won't go as far as to say that this is a destination job, but there are likely a good number of coaches interested in an opportunity like this.
I think Del Conte realizes that we are at a very important moment in the history of this program. With all of the aforementioned attributes combining to create a decent amount of momentum, Del Conte knows that the university must capitalize. Even one more year of sub-.500 basketball could have reversed that momentum and pushed this program even further behind their Big 12 counterparts.
On a personal note, I had the chance to work pretty closely with Trent Johnson for two years while I was serving on the TCU Men's Basketball Student Committee. It is easy to say now, but he was always very friendly and kind to myself and the rest of our staff. I truly believe that he was genuinely committed to building this program. His demeanor on the sidelines might not always reflect this, but he is one of the good guys in college basketball. His programs were always clean and he always did things the right way. He got thrown into a very difficult situation in Fort Worth, but that shouldn't deter from his character.
Jamie: By all accounts Trent Johnson is a phenomenal human being. That in and of itself makes the firing much more difficult to take than it should be for a coach who had as bad a record as Johnson did. There's no doubt he cared about the guys on the team, the coaching staff, and TCU. It just never translated into wins, and it's hard to justify keeping a coach around regardless of how great a person he is, if he isn't winning.
coachmelissa: I wish Trent Johnson the person translated into Trent Johnson the incredibly successful basketball coach. By all accounts, a great person who did things the right way and held his athletes to the highest standards on and off the court. Give me that, an annual NIT bid, and the occasional run towards March Madness and I am a happy TCU Basketball fan. Sadly, TJ just couldn't get it done on the court. TCU Hoops is in a really bad place and that's not his fault. But the fact that he couldn't get what is, by most observations, a pretty talented team, to at least compete to get out of the cellar just wasn't good enough. He didn't need to win the Big XII, or even finish in the top half. But beating the middle of the pack at home and putting a scare into one or two powers a year isn't too much to ask for this program, in this area, with those facilities. And that wasn't happening. I don't know if anyone can come in and do that, but in four years, it became pretty obvious that TJ wasn't going to. So, if you have the chance to right the ship, and you have someone in mind or on the phone, you make the call. Chris Del Conte has earned the benefit of the doubt here - yes, TJ was his hire, but ultimately, he hasn't made many mistakes.
Marshall: I have mixed feelings, honestly. Whenever we blew that late season game to Tech I thought, "Alight, he probably needs to go," but then you take into account the injuries and the fact that the Big 12 put seven teams in the tournament. That together is a tough mix, you know? Trent's a great guy and always stole the show at alumni events. At the very least, I'll miss his personality.
WarriorHornedFrog: I think it's the right move by TCU. I just wonder who they'll be able to get who can recruit significant talent. TCU MBB is in slightly better shape than the "chicken vs. egg" tipping point they were at in 2012, so I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a move forward.
Mason Jamboogie: I have some mixed emotions. I don't want us to start becoming a school with a revolving door of head basketball coaches, but then again he also produced a conference record of 8-64. However, I absolutely believe that he was a stand up guy who just walked into a very, very, very, tough situation. He was making good money, but in all honesty it looks like he was bound to fall on this sword eventually...considering we play 6-7 teams in the top 25, twice a year, and we've never been a basketball powerhouse.
2) Were you in the camp that thought he should get another year? If so, why? If not, why not?
andrewfelts: I'll be the first to admit that I flip-flopped quite a bit on this topic. Mid-way through the season, I was adamant that he deserved another year, but as the Frogs got deeper into conference play, my attitude changed pretty drastically. It became clearer and clearer that this team had lost the enthusiasm and effort that we had seen throughout the entire 2014-15 season and throughout much of the non-conference portion of this year. When you look holistically at the players Johnson has brought to Fort Worth, there's not much to be seen in terms of overall development. Karviar Shepherd and Brandon Parrish are the same players now that they were when they stepped foot on campus as freshmen three years ago. Throw on a dismal four-year record in Big 12 play, and it makes more sense that a change needed to be made. Not to mention, watching Tubby Smith accomplish more with less talent and in less time at Texas Tech was pretty eye-opening for me.
Jamie: I was in the "give him one more year" camp until recently, when the Frogs watched a big halftime lead over Texas Tech evaporate. I was driving home at halftime of that game and what I heard in the halftime report still has me bumfuzzled.
The reporter was talking about Johnson's halftime speech, saying that TJ was telling his team to control the clock and slow the game down. This is with a 14 point lead at halftime. Chauncey Collins and Malique Trent had been slicing up Tech's defense, getting to the rim with relative ease and here was Johnson telling them to slow down.
Instead, he should have been calling for them to not let off the gas. To keep firing away because the offense was finally hitting on most cylinders. But no, he called for the team to play not to lose, rather than to play to win. The team has barely scraped anything together in conference play, what did they really have to lose by continuing to play all out? That was the tipping point for me.
coachmelissa: There are fewer things worse than a lame duck coach and barring some insane preseason success, that's what Johnson would have been next year. Going into year five of six, there's no way he was getting an extension. He would have needed something crazy to happen - another undefeated preseason or a couple big wins early in conference play. But that probably wasn't happening. This way, you bring in another new face, they have some job security with everyone expecting a rebuild, and you can recruit with a strong foundation. But, Del Conte really can't screw this up. He is going to have to make a near perfect hire - someone with a name, that makes a statement or a splash, but still makes perfect basketball sense. Yikes. Good luck with that.
Marshall: I think he deserved one more year–barely. But when you invest $80 million in a stadium, you can't have 2-3 wins a year, no matter the difficulty of the Big 12. Look, I don't know college basketball like Felts or have the passion for it like Jamie, but you also have to take into account what else is out there.
WarriorHornedFrog: No. I don't think TCU could afford another year of that kind of lousy ROI on their investment.
Mason Jamboogie: This is a tough question for me. If he stayed one more year then he would've been able to recruit for the first time with legitimate facilities as a selling point for TCU. We'll also get Alex Robinson, four-star transfer from A&M and a lot of the current roster will be returning. On the other hand, the chances that we would finish anywhere above the bottom three in the conference under Johnson next year were slim, so why wait to start over with someone else? It should also be noted that our players never seemed to show any huge steps in terms of development. Now I don't know if that's on them, with factors like work ethic, but at the end of the day the finger gets pointed at the coach. So as nice of a guy as he is, I'm okay with the decision to let Johnson go sooner rather than later.
3) Off the top of your head, name the first person that comes to mind when you think of "TCU ANNOUNCES NEW BASKETBALL COACH ____________"
andrewfelts: I am 100% all-in on the Brad Underwood hype train. The former Kansas State assistant has built Stephen F. Austin into a dominant mid-major program over the last three years. Under his watch, SFA has complied an 88-13 record, including a 53-1 mark in Southland Conference play. With those numbers, it's not surprising that Underwood has led the Lumberjacks to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Only 52 years old, he is an ideal candidate to oversee a long-term rebuilding project in Fort Worth.
Underwood was a hot coaching candidate at the end of last season, interviewing for positions at Marshall and Southern Miss. He eventually signed an eight-year contract extension at Stephen F. Austin, however he is making just under $400,000 per year at the school. For comparison, Johnson was making roughly $2 million per year at TCU. There's no question that TCU has the financial resources and brand recognition to not only lure Underwood to Fort Worth, but also cover the costs of what could be a pricey buyout in Nacogdoches.
Jamie: I really like the thought of bringing in Brad Underwood, but something about Chris Beard over at Little Rock has me intrigued. The guy took a pretty bad program (two winning seasons in the past five prior to this year) and made them into a 29-4 squad and a 12-seed in the tournament in one season. It tells me that he has the ability to get the most out of the talent he's handed and if he were to take the reins at TCU, he'd presumably have quite a bit of talent to work with.
coachmelissa: JEFF CAPEL. I am definitely #TeamCapel. The 41 year old assistant to Coach K at Duke, where he played, has major coaching experience - he won a lot of games at VCU before matriculating to OU where he had mixed results - signing Blake Griffin and winning a bunch of games with him on the good side, having to vacate the entire 2009-2010 season due to playing an ineligible player on the bad - though he wasn't implicated. A few years working with Coach K certainly can't hurt, nor can his familiarity with the Big XII. Also... he likely has familiarity with TCU target Marques Bolden, who also has Duke on his short list.
I also will be paying close attention to Brad Underwood from SFA during the opening weekend of the tourney, and have had a keen eye on Scott Cross at UT-Arlington this year as well. Any of the three would really be a solid move for CDC and the Frogs.
Marshall: I know Felts and most people are out on Jamie Dixon. Contracts, however, are pretty much meaningless. He could have a 100-yr contract at Pitt, it's just a matter of if TCU's willing to buy him out. Dixon's almost half way through his current contract at Pitt and it'd probably put the buyout around 20 million, which is essentially paying the guy double what he's currently making–paying Pitt and then paying Dixon himself.
TCU's just not going to put $7.5 million a year in Jamie Dixon. Not because they can't, but because for anyone, that'd be unwise. I mean Gary, minus his other incentives, is making around what Dixon does. Dixon is also the highest paid state employee in the state of Pennsylvania. That's just a lot of cash to bring in Dixon.
Scott Brooks? That'd be pretty cool. I was always a big fan of him at OKC and it'd be nice to have that name in Fort Worth. He's also never coached in college.
Brad Underwood? That seems to be the smart bet and where people who care about college basketball outside of March are putting their money. Does that make me excited? Not really. Not because Underwood isn't currently or won't (potentially) be a great coach in Fort Worth, but does that make me get excited for 2016-17? No. Maybe that's my fault as a casual fan. But maybe it's partially TCU's fault for not making me care. If you're going to put $80 million in a stadium, you want a household-ish name. But again, I don't know what else is out there in terms of those kinds of names.
Personally, I'd go with Scott Cross–especially in terms of realism. Plus, he's only 41. Underwood, Brooks, and Dixon are all in their 50s. I realize you can probably coach college basketball until you're 90, but you want a guy with a little bit of youth, you know?
WarriorHornedFrog: I know it's an extremely unlikely scenario, but I'd like to see TCU look at Jeff Lavender up at College of Idaho. Besides being a long time friend of mine that I know the players would respond well to, Jeff has an incredible record up there with the Yotes.
Mason Jamboogie: Realistically: Ben Jacobson
Decent chance: Brad Underwood
Maybe, just maybe: Chris Mack
Fascinating: Scott Brooks (come home)
TCU athletic department goes into debt: TOM THIBODEAU TO FORT WORTH