"Gosh, I'd love to go back to one of those," TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini said when introducing Dixon.
That was, as noted above, TCU's Chancellor when discussing the NCAA Tournament and TCU at the press conference of new head coach, former Pitt man, Jamie Dixon. In a few words, that sums up new head coach Jamie Dixon's expectations at his new gig.
Don't get me wrong. TCU surely will have grander desires at some point if they manage to start winning. It started that way at Pitt as well. The Panthers' basketball program had been so starved for success that the NCAA Tournament looked like a tropical paradise. Pitt not only made the tournament but also started making it to the Sweet 16. Once, they reached the Elite Eight and all of a sudden, it became Final Four or bust. But for now, TCU is just trying to get its foot into the door of college basketball's top postseason event.
Winning games there? Save that for later.
Dixon was introduced as TCU's next men's basketball coach this week. In the Horned Frogs, Dixon suddenly finds himself the captain of a ship that's gone nowhere lately. TCU won 12 games this year. The season before, things looked promising after a Pitt-like 13-0 start. But they would go on to win only five of their next 20 games and missed the NCAA Tournament. 2013-14? Nine wins. The year before? 11 wins. The year before that? TCU made the CBI. The year before, 11 wi ...
You get the idea.
In fact, one has to go all the way back to 1998 to find TCU's last NCAA Tournament appearance. They haven't even won an NCAA Tournament game since 1987 when, you guessed it, Jamie Dixon was a freaking player. In all, the school has been there seven times and never won more than one game in any particular showing. And no, we don't need your 'Dixon will fit right in comments' ... at least not yet.
Dixon, for his part, has said all the right things. He usually does. He's even talked of winning right away and winning Big 12 championships. It's what he should say so there's no sense in overanalyzing it. But the very real fact is that he more than has his work cut out for him. At Pitt, he was at least the beneficiary of Ben Howland getting things off and running. That's not to say he can't get things turned around at TCU, only it won't be very easy.
The former Pitt coach is not only taking over a program with really no basketball history, he has to turn it around in the difficult Big 12. This isn't Dixon taking a job at a mid-major where he doesn't have to worry about the big boys until the postseason. It's a program that has to compete with Kansas. And Texas. And Texas A&M. And West Virginia. Not to mention No. 2 seed this year Oklahoma. And Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, etc.
The problem I foresee is that, outside of when he had Barry Rohrssen, his staff has really struggled to compete in the world of recruiting. And that's what he'll need to do to ultimately win there. Dixon is not tied in and a perfect example of that is Twitter. While head football coach Pat Narduzzi is all over the social media outlet, Dixon had to be practically coaxed by athletics director Scott Barnes to dust the cobwebs off an account that, for all intents and purposes, was a ghost town. Dixon competing in the Big 12 seems to be even more difficult than it was at Pitt in the ACC. The Panthers weren't North Carolina, Duke, or Louisville, but they at least had a track record of success. At the end of the day, selling Pitt to recruits at a program he had been with for nearly 20 years has to be easier than selling TCU to recruits.
Despite all of this, Dixon has an ace up his sleeve. And that's the fact that he is moving to a place with far less expectations than there were at Pitt. If Dixon gets to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program in nearly 20 years, he'll be hailed as a hero. If he reaches it several times in a row, there will be a statue of him. What comes after that? Who knows. But for now, Dixon's immediate goals are to win a few more games and hopefully get his team into the Big Dance.
And with that as his goal, there's no doubt that he has far less expectations. I like Dixon - a lot. And it's no secret that I wish Pitt could have held onto him since the end game looks uncertain at best. He was clearly burned out at Pitt trying to meet growing fan expectations and fortunately for him, those aren't nearly as high at his new job.