The departure of Jim Christian from the TCU basketball program to Ohio was well-timed for both the Horned Frogs and Christian. It gives Christian a chance to go back to a conference where he's had success (at Kent State) and it gives TCU a chance to hire a proven coach who can bring some excitement to the program just as it enters the Big 12.
And there's one logical name: Jamie Dixon.
Before you roll your eyes and claim that TCU has no shot, know this: He's at the top of their wish list. And I wonder if the timing isn't right for him to leapfrog to Fort Worth.
There are some obstacles, obviously. He had a disappointing year in Pittsburgh (team didn't make NCAA or NIT, but won the CBI title), but has a contract worth, according to reports, between $1.6 and $2 million through 2018. TCU was paying Christian around $600,000. That's an awfully large gap.
But athletic director Chris Del Conte (with help from football coach Gary Patterson and others at TCU) helped get the financial backing for renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium. Football, as it should, took priority. Now, the athletic department should focus on increasing resources for the basketball program. That has to start with renovations to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum and Del Conte has said that's a major priority.
With the sports programs going to the Big 12 starting with the 2012 football season, there's no better time than to try to get the basketball program up toward competitive status again (last NCAA tournament trip was 1998 under Billy Tubbs and that team, a No. 4 seed, lost to FSU in the first round). It can get there. But it will take a commitment by the university and a big-time coach -- in that order, or they won't get the big-time coach.
That coach should be Dixon. But why would he do it? Because he was a star at TCU as a player and seems to have at least kept track of things in Horned Frog land since he left.
He was a star with TCU in the late 1980s, hitting a memorable buzzer beater against Texas in 1987 and playing on two Southwest Conference title teams for the Horned Frogs (part of Jim Killingsworth's "Killer Frogs"). TCU was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament in 1987 and beat Marshall in the first round before losing to Notre Dame in the second round by one point. The game ended with some controversy when Dixon was whistled for a foul on Irish guard David Rivers, who made a free throw with four seconds left to give Notre Dame the win. TCU fans felt Rivers stepped out of bounds and wasn't fouled.
That's history, of course. But it's a part of TCU history that many current fans know. Dixon, though, has kept up with the Frogs. He talked with Del Conte in 2010 at a football game and is credited with helping to push TCU into the Big East. Though the Frogs never played a game in the conference, the move certainly couldn't have hurt with Big 12 officials as they looked for another program to join the conference in 2012.
Dixon has put together an impressive resume at Pitt. Yes, he had a down year this past season, but took the Panthers to seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and two Sweet 16 trips and one to the Elite 8 (2009).
He's got a track record and ties to TCU. He's a big name that would attract attention, not only of fans but of prospective recruits. It's time for TCU to raise the money and go after him.