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Midweek Musing: Jamie Dixon doesn’t have anything to apologize for

If you were offered your dream job, would you not take the call?

TCU Basketball vs Texas (1.23.19)
TCU Basketball vs Texas (1.23.19)
Melissa Triebwasser

“There came a point when I told our guys ‘what you’ve done and how you’ve stuck together is amazing, it really is’.”

This was Jamie Dixon’s message to his players last Tuesday night as he sat at the press conference table following the Frogs’ season-ending loss to Texas in the NIT semi-finals at Madison Square Garden. Just a few short hours later, though, it appeared he was ready to jump ship and head home to Southern California, negotiating with UCLA for their open head coaching position.

But, as our own dear Mason Chreene said, “tell me when the ink is dry.”

And apparently, it never got to that point.

So, now, TCU players, assistant coaches, administrators, and fans are in the awkward position on having a head basketball coach who appeared to be ready to abandon the program he played for to head to the one that helped him fall in love with the game of basketball. It’s akin to buying a house with your significant other and having to both live there together after you break up.

Look, I get it. To a guy who grew up in Southern California during John Wooden’s hey day at UCLA, the Bruins job and Pauley Pavilion has a certain mystique about it. And for a coach closing in to the final run of his prime years, opportunities to take over Blue Blood programs, even ones that have fallen on hard times, don’t come across often. Dixon took the call - the same way that you, I, and anyone who has a desire to reach the top of their profession would. You can love your job and still be intrigued by a once in a lifetime opportunity, can you not?

When Jamie Dixon was hired by the Horned Frogs in March of 2016, he set some lofty goals for the program. He spoke of leading TCU Basketball back to relevance, of making the NCAA Tournament regularly becoming an expectation as opposed to a pipe dream, of drawing top talent to Fort Worth and building a program that would compete at the top of the Big 12. He hasn’t done those things - yet.

The Frogs have recruited at a high level, but of the five four star guys he got to campus, only Kevin Samuel and RJ Nembhard remain. The Frogs saw four players transfer out before conference play began in January, a strange thing for a Power Five program, even in today’s transfer-heavy market.

TCU made the tournament once in his three seasons - nothing to shake your head at, especially for a program that hadn’t been there in 20 years - but missed it this season amid the adversity and attrition suffered in 2019. Depending on your perspective, making it to the semis of the NIT with just seven healthy scholarship players is either disappointing or an accomplishment in itself, but it certainly felt like a step back after the high expectations Frog fans entered this season with.

In other words, he has unfinished business in Fort Worth. And it appears that he’s staying home to finish it. He said as much in his first public comments (via twitter) regarding the UCLA position Tuesday:

But not everyone is happy about that, it seems.

I guess we all kind of hoped/expected that he cared about TCU because it was his alma mater, not just because it was his next step. Though, it’s not wrong to believe he truly cares about TCU while still being willing to dip out for a storied program like the Bruins. When he said in January “you’re stuck with me,” I think we all kind of hoped that was true - and it hurt fans when it became apparent that it may not be.

When Dixon was hired, he said “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.”

Folks want to throw those words out of the window because he wanted to leave. The amount of comments I have read on social media that amount to “we want someone who wants to be here not someone trying to leave” is laughable. Do you not know what dire straights TCU Basketball was in just five years ago? Anyone who is good at their job is going to get bigger opportunities - and would be an idiot to not at least explore them.

And his parents live in LA! As do his wife’s. That had to be a massive draw for someone who is very much family first. He said as much in his first public comments since the pursuit, when he spoke to Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram. “My wife’s and myself’s families are very important to us, and on both sides our parents are getting older,” Dixon said. “Our families are the most important thing to us, so that is always an ongoing responsibility that changes over time. My wife is an only child, and I have one sister that is still with us. So our parents, our families is a responsibility we have.”

Jamie Dixon has a conversation with the school that holds more national titles than ANY OTHER SCHOOL. Can you blame him for that? According to those close to him, getting left out of the NCAA Tournament this year was a real gut check moment for Dixon, a realization that it’s still an uphill battle when it comes to getting the benefit of the doubt when your uniform says TCU. That problem doesn’t exist for UCLA.

Ultimately, what we are left with is that he’s here. And he wants to be here, according to a conversation he had with the AD. That’s enough for me, and it should be enough for every Frog fan, too. “We’ve always been happy. That’s the thing -- we’ve been happy the day we got here. We’ve been happy for three years now and nothing’s changed. I didn’t need to be more happier, if that’s a phrase, but I think that fits best in describing it. We’ve always been happy and continue to be so, and look forward to be so,” Dixon said in the Star-Telegram article.

We have a great basketball coach who is working to finish the job he started and fulfill his promise along the way. He’s going to do his job - we need to support him and the program to fulfill our job.