Jamie Dixon UCLA Rumors: Latest on TCU Coach Leaving for Bruins

Getty Head coach Jamie Dixon of the TCU Horned Frogs reacts to a call by the referee in the second half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones.

Jamie Dixon’s season is done with TCU, as the Horned Frogs lost Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals to Big XII rival Texas. The latest rumors and news are pointing to it being his last game coaching for his alma mater.

Reports are ramping up that Dixon will leave Fort Worth to take the UCLA job, as long as both parties figure out how to negotiate down his hefty $8 million dollar buyout. Ben Bolch of the LA Times says that Dixon is trying to get the buyout down to $1 million, or else UCLA will have to shell out the money.

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported Wednesday that UCLA “gauged interest” from Kentucky’s John Calipari, Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. He also states the current negotiations are circled around Dixon.

The TCU coach has been a model of consistency during his career. Since taking over for Ben Howland at Pitt in 2003, and then TCU in 2017, the 53-year old has recorded at least 20 wins in all but one season.

Taking over an established program such as the Panthers and churning out a few 30-win seasons is decent…but what he’s done at a perennial Big XII bottom-dweller is pretty remarkable. The Horned Frogs hadn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1998 before Dixon arrived. In year one, they won the NIT. By year two, they earned a No. 6 seed in the Big Dance.

The program hadn’t eclipsed 20 wins once in the previous decade before Dixon showed up. Now it has 3-straight.

This success, as well as his connection to Howland, has some thinking Dixon is a possibility to take over the vacated UCLA coaching job. Howland was the last coach to lead the Bruins to the Final Four (3 times), so it’s possible that UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero will dip back into that well.

Let’s look at the rumors and rumblings.

Jamie Dixon to UCLA Rumors

Dixon is a North Hollywood native, but also an alumnus of TCU. The question of where his heart lies was also asked by LA Times beat writer Ben Bolch when laying out the coaching candidates back in January.

Why he’s attractive: Howland isn’t coming back for another decade-long run, but what about his protégé? Dixon, 53, might be the next best thing to his mentor. He replaced Howland at Pittsburgh and took the Panthers to one regional final and two regional semifinals in 13 seasons before moving to Texas Christian, his alma mater, in 2016. Dixon is on track to win at least 20 games for a third consecutive season while blending a high-level offense and defense.

Reservations? The native of North Hollywood and alumnus of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High has said he’s not interested in the UCLA job, but public declarations don’t always hold up. Remember Roy Williams? He once said on national television that he didn’t give a bleep about the North Carolina job only to take it shortly thereafter. The only potential snags with Dixon are his willingness to leave his alma mater and circumvent what is believed to be a hefty buyout at the private school.

Seth Davis of The Athletic didn’t mention anything about Dixon initially. He instead seemed to indicate that UCLA would rather go the NBA route, citing interest in former Suns coach Earl Watson, Lakers coach Luke Walton or former Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.

Hoiberg is now the coach at Nebraska, while Watson’s rumors upset large swathes of the Bruins fanbase.

Jeff Goodman of Stadium said that the Howland connection would actually be an impediment to UCLA hiring Dixon, though recent reports indicate otherwise.

He’s done a nice job at his alma mater, and he’s from Los Angeles — but the 53-year-old may not have quite enough sizzle for the UCLA job. Plus, he’s a former Howland assistant — and that won’t help matters for both sides.

Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram states that the lack of excitement around TCU basketball should drive away a quality coach such as Dixon.

As loyal and dedicated as Dixon is to his alma mater, the school that he acknowledges gave him a shot as a teenager, he is human. Any coach with Final Four aspirations would be frustrated at what he saw on Monday night, in the team’s home regular season finale against No. 18 Kansas State.

This is the same frustration former TCU football coach Dennis Franchione felt before he left in 2000, and the one Gary Patterson fights the fight every fall.

The crowd, on Senior Night, was pathetic. The latest excuse? It’s cold out there. It’s a school night.

A final positive? Dixon is cheap. He actually ranked one spot behind former UCLA coach Steve Alford in this year’s earnings list. For an athletic department that is typically cheap, Dixon’s $2.64 million contract won’t have to go up much.

After 4 months of waiting through interim coach Murray Bartow’s tenure, it seems someone manning the sidelines in Pauley Pavilion soon.

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