FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — When TCU last won an NCAA Tournament game in 1987, Jamie Dixon was a senior guard for the then-Southwest Conference champion Horned Frogs.
Dixon is now back at his alma mater as head coach, focused on the future and not the lack of any consistent success in the three decades since he played.
“We’re starting over. I can’t do anything about the last 30 years. I can’t do anything about the last four in the Big 12,” Dixon said. “And we’re a new program for so many reasons, and I think it’s just the best way for us to look at it.”
The Frogs have won only eight conference games in four seasons since joining the Big 12. They are picked to finish last again in the league that had the highest overall RPI the past three seasons.
Still, Dixon envisions the TCU program becoming similar to what he had while leading Pittsburgh to 11 NCAA Tournaments the past 13 seasons.
“I think we have everything in place here to do that, and that’s where getting to the tournament is expected and anything less is not a good year,” he said. “I know there’s no history to base that upon, but we’ve got to believe, we’ve got to have blind faith.”
TCU is going into its first full season in its completely redone arena, which was gutted but is still under the same roof that was there when Dixon was part of two SWC titles as a player.
After replacing the fired Trent Johnson in late March, Dixon was able to add some impact freshmen — point guard Jaylen Fisher, guard Desmond Bane and forward Kouat Noi — and inherited a roster with four seniors that the new coach is relying on to be leaders.
“Our final chance,” said guard Michael Williams, one of the TCU seniors. “We’ve got a new coach, got a new team, and looking to make big things happen.”
Some things to watch for with the Horned Frogs this season:
Dixon’s first signee was Fisher, who had been committed to UNLV before fired coach Dave Rice was replaced in April. Former UNLV assistant Ryan Miller, who had recruited Fisher, is now on Dixon’s staff at TCU. “Jaylen’s very good. He’s what we needed,” Dixon said. “A point, great way to start a program with your first sign. … He might be as good a point guard as there was last year, as far as a true point guard.”
Kenrich Williams, a 6-foot-7 guard, averaged 8.6 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds a game as a sophomore in 2014-15. But he missed last season after microfracture knee surgery. Williams is back and healthy after the redshirt year.
Before Fisher, the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with TCU was 6-11 forward Karviar Shepherd. After averaging 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds as a freshman, Shepherd’s numbers dropped to 6.1 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore, and he had 7.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game last season.
Dixon won 328 games in his 13 seasons with Pitt. Under its last three head coaches the past 14 seasons — the late Neil Dougherty, Jim Christian and Johnson — TCU won only 181 games and had only three winning records.
NOT GETTING EASIER
Dixon went from the Big East to ACC with Pittsburgh, and now is in the Big 12. “I seem to have gone from the best conference, to the best conference to the best conference,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s great that TCU is a part of that. That’s where it should be, and where it once was in the Southwest Conference.”