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TCU Basketball Coaching Search: The Candidates

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Jamie Dixon? Brad Underwood? Who will TCU land as its next Men's Basketball Coach?

Jamie Dixon doesn't love the idea of leaving Pittsburgh.
Jamie Dixon is the first choice for TCU, but not (likely) for Jamie Dixon.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Based upon reporting from Jeremy Clark at HornedFrogBlitz.com, here are the (initial) candidates currently being considered for the open head coaching position at TCU.

(I've ordered the candidates by "priority", in my opinion, for TCU. Who gets the first phone call, etc. etc.)

(FYI, a subscription to HornedFrogBlitz.com pairs nicely with your daily dose of FOW)

Jamie Dixon, TCU coaching front runner Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Jamie Dixon - University of Pittsburgh

Career Record: 327-120, 13 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 3

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 1

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 2

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 10

Contract Status: Signed through 2022-2023 season, $1.4m base salary

Jamie Dixon's time at Pittsburgh has been extremely fruitful, as is evidenced by his 10 year $16m contract through the 2022-2023 season. However, things have soured slightly at the moment and some Pitt fans have started to call for Jamie's head.

Is he the front runner for the job at TCU? Of course! But, given his success at Pitt, is it likely he is the guy TCU lands? Most likely not. Next!

Another note: A TCU source I spoke with said of Jamie Dixon's contract buyout: "...north of $5 million..." If true, that is much higher than I anticipated and may make it hard to land Mr. Dixon. Will the donors step up?

Ben Jacobson
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Ben Jacobson - University of Northern Iowa

Age: 45

Career Record: 219-116, 10 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 6

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 1

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 3

Contract Status: Signed through 2025, avg. $910k per year

Ben Jacobson's UNI team hit a high water mark in 2014-15, going 31-4, making it to the third round of the NCAA tournament before bowing out to Louisville. Ben is viewed as one of the premier "young" coaches in College Basketball, a developer of talent who has reached a top-tier level of success: This year, he beat North Carolina and Iowa State on his way to another MVC Championship.

However, many view Jacobson as being extremely happy at UNI and not likely to leave except for a big job. Other schools have tried to steal Jacobson, prompting school officials to give him not one but two 10-year extensions over the last five years, the latest will push his guaranteed annual compensation over $1 million by 2025. Can TCU do what others haven't been able to do? Probably not. Something tells me Ben is waiting for a big job (Louisville, Kentucky, UNC, Duke), which TCU certainly isn't.

One thing to note: If TCU wants Jacobson, they will have to pay a buyout of $4.1m to UNI to do so... That's hefty.

Brad Underwood, next TCU basketball coach?
Brad Underwood
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Brad Underwood - Stephen F. Austin

Age: 52

Career Record: 88-13, 3 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 5

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 3

Contract Status: Signed through 2022, $400k per year

Brad Underwood has to be considered one of TCU's top targets for the job. In just three years at SFA, he has turned the Lumberjacks into a serious NCAA tournament threat, a hot upset pick for many this year.

But, many believe Underwood covets the job at Kansas State, his alma-mater, where current head coach Bruce Weber is on a very hot seat following yet another disappointing season. Underwood turned down offers from Southern Miss and Marshall following the 2014-15 season, reportedly.

The good news is this: Despite the long term deal, Underwood's buyout is less than $1m which makes him easy to buy. Will he accept a move to Fort Worth? Something tells me, given his success, comfort, and potential opening down the road in Manhattan, the answer will be no.

Chris Beard, next TCU basketball coach?
Chris Beard
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Beard - University of Arkansas, Little Rock

Age: ?

Career Record: 170-49, 7 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 1

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1

Contract Status: Signed through 2019, $230k per year

For my money, Chris Beard is the favorite in this coaching search. Having studied under Tom Penders at Texas & Bob Knight at Texas Tech and coached (successfully) at the D-II level for many years, Chris arrived at UoA Little Rock this year with a ton of promise. And, as they say, Chris delivered on that promise with a conference championship and a ticket to the dance. Not bad for year one!

Chris also has significant ties within the Texas high school coaches associations, having battled his way to notoriety over the last few decades by making friends on the circuits. Given his standing, he certainly provides the biggest Texas recruiting "plus" of any coach on TCU's radar.

Given his buyout of $200k and his background as a true "coach", something tells me Chris will be a prime target for Chris Del Conte and his search committee. Will he be "the guy"? Something tells me... yes.

Scott Cross, next TCU Basketball coach?
Scott Cross
Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Scott Cross - University of Texas, Arlington

Age: 41

Career Record: 176-138, 10 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 1

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1

Contract Status: Signed through 2020, $300k per year

Despite moderate success (compared to his competitors), Scott Cross is a hot name in college basketball and will likely get a long, hard look from TCU. His ties to Texas basketball and the DFW area are definite positives for TCU, a school looking to improve its standing in the state.

But Cross is a UTA alum, he is the winning-ist coach in that school's history, does it make sense for him to leave? TCU would need to pony up a $600k+ buyout to get him away, which isn't an impediment, but does the investment match the value in return? I wouldn't look to Cross, if I was Chris Del Conte.

Will Wade, next TCU basketball coach?
Will Wade
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Will Wade - Virginia Commonwealth University

Age: 33

Career Record: 64-35, 3 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 1

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1

Contract Status: Signed through 2020, avg. $1m per year

Will Wade is a very young coach, in his first season taking over at VCU after the departure of Shaka Smart to Texas. Wade has done a good job taking Shaka's players and turning VCU into a significant tournament contender, a #10 seed this year.

The book is out on Wade, who has had success on and off the court during his three seasons as a head coach, but clearly he is viewed as an up-and-comer in coaching circles. VCU guaranteeing him $1m a year is proof of that alone. If TCU wants Wade, it will take a buyout of $1m plus a significant financial package to get him to Fort Worth. Is it worth it, given the sample size?

Sydney Johnson, next TCU Basketball coach?
Sydney Johnson
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Sydney Johnson - Fairfield University

Age: 41

Career Record: 139-144, 9 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 1

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1

Contract Status: Signed through 2019, $500k per year

Sydney Johnson is another young coach who has made a name for himself as an innovator, first at Princeton and now at Fairfield. BUT, unlike the other candidates TCU is considering, Johnson hasn't had the on-court success or recruiting success to back up said reputation.

His buyout isn't bad, anticipated to be $500k, which might make him more appealing to TCU. But is he the best option? I have to believe not.

Tim Jankovich, the next TCU basketball coach?
Tim Jankovich
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Jankovich - SMU Associate Head Coach

Age: 56

Career Record: 157-121, 9 Seasons

Conference Championships (Reg & Tournament): 0

National Championships: 0

Final Four Appearances: 0

Elite Eight Appearances: 0

Sweet Sixteen Appearances: 0

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 0

Contract Status: ?

Tim is a basketball lifer, hailing from Gary, Indiana and having coached, as an assistant or head coach, at 13 different programs including two stints as a head coach at North Texas and Northern Illinois. He has been working under Larry Brown at SMU the past four years, including time as the fill-in Head Coach while Brown was out.

But here's the thing: Jankovich has never won anything as a head coach. His teams, most notably Bill Self's Kansas teams, have had success while under his eye as an assistant, but does that make him a prime choice for TCU? Probably not, but he wouldn't be the worst fall back option.

My biggest problem? He does NOTHING for the fan base or donors. Not a good start.