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Report: Dixon out as UCLA candidate, expected to say at TCU

Well, this is awkward.

TCU Basketball vs Texas 2.10.18
TCU Basketball vs Texas 2.10.18
Melissa Triebwasser

Multiple reports have come out Friday evening confirming that TCU Basketball coach Jamie Dixon is staying in Fort Worth.

According to Ben Bolch of the LA Times, Jamie Dixon is no longer a candidate to replace the fired Steve Alford as head basketball coach at UCLA. Bolch reported Friday afternoon that:

“Dixon’s $8-million buyout at Texas Christian became an insurmountable sticking point for both sides, according to multiple people close to the situation, with the Horned Frogs unwilling to lower the amount and the Bruins unwilling to pay it even after identifying Dixon as their top candidate as part of a lengthy search.”

If the buyout was indeed the issue, it puts Dixon in an awkward situation with TCU and his program. With one foot out the door for what many are saying was a “dream opportunity” for the Southern California native, he will have to mend some bridges with his players, coaches, and fans ahead of next season. It also puts TCU Athletics in the uncomfortable position of forcing the hand of a coach that does not, apparently, want to be there. But that doesn’t seem to matter to chancellor Victor Boschini, who told TCU 360 reporter Garrett Podell “none of this matters because he’s staying.He came over to my house last night around 6:30. I’m glad he’s coming back.”

When Dixon returned to his alma mater in March of 2016, he did so with a goal of turning around a program that had gone 0-18 in conference play just two years prior. He set the expectation to win now, and started the Frogs trending upward - winning an NIT title in year one and taking TCU to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades the following season. In year three, though, the Frogs took what many considered a step back - among a rash of injuries and transfers, a 19 win program was left out of March Madness, a snub that has been said to have left a bad taste in his mouth.

Enter the Bruins.

Listed in January among the likely candidates that one of the most storied programs in college athletics would pursue, Dixon was not UCLA’s top choice - but after being spurned by other big names, he became their top target. Negotiations began in earnest as he flew home from NYC following an NIT Semi Final loss to Texas earlier this week, and the rumors that he was leaving were in full force 24 hours later. But negotiations faced a hiccup when, according to multiple sources, athletic director Jeremiah Donati and the TCU braintrust refused to negotiate down the reported $8 million buyout figure. Dixon was hoping to bargain the number down closer to one million, the figure TCU paid to get him out of his contract at Pitt, but the Frogs did not budge. Apparently.

Though the last few days have been awkward to say the least and mishandled at best, it would behoove Frog fans to welcome back one of the most decorated players in their history with open arms. One should not hold against him a chance to go to the place that he has described as “the birthplace of basketball” or back to his home - where both his and his wife’s parents still reside. It appears that this was more of a once in a lifetime opportunity than a sign that Dixon is actively seeking to leave, but its fair to question whether denying him the opportunity to do so will sour him on his relationship with Donati and TCU.

We can certainly hope that is not the case.

Now, damage control can begin, as Dixon will look to keep a strong recruiting class intact and work to return his veteran core. Rising senior Desmond Bane is expected to forgo the NBA Draft and return, but redshirt sophomore Kouat Noi is reportedly contemplating his options. Should both return, they will form a potent one-two scoring punch that should lead the Frogs back to the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, UCLA will likely turn to a secondary option, with names like Mick Cronin, Earl Watson, Luke Walton, or Final Four participant Tony Bennett being bandied about.

That’s their problem now, though. Meanwhile, TCU seems to have their coach of the present - and the future - as Podell found out from Boschini in his scoop. “My interpretation of our conversation is that he [Dixon] plans to stay with us through the entirety of his career and that we don’t have to worry about something like this again.”

That’s a relief.