TCU’s Dixon says he decided to stay instead of going to UCLA

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              FILE - In this Saturday, March 2, 2019 file photo, TCU head coach Jamie Dixon instructs his team in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU’s Jamie Dixon says he made the decision to stay at his alma mater instead of going home to coach at UCLA. Dixon says UCLA was prepared to take care of the hefty buyout in his contract. The coach said Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at the Big 12 spring meetings that he’s always been happy at TCU and that hasn’t changed after three seasons. He says the UCLA job was one he had to look at last month. His aging parents and his wife’s family still live in the Los Angeles area. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
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IRVING, Texas (AP) — TCU coach Jamie Dixon is planning to go home soon to the Los Angeles area to visit his parents. He said he could have been coaching there if that’s what he had really wanted to do.

Dixon said Wednesday that he made the decision to stay at his alma mater instead of returning to the West Coast to coach even after UCLA was prepared to take care of the hefty buyout in his contract.

“Ultimately I had the choice to go or leave, and I decided to stay. It was my choice,” Dixon said at the Big 12 spring meetings. “They took care of the buyout. … I had the option to go. I could do what I wanted to do.”

UCLA in April hired Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin after the Bruins had spoken with Dixon, who was born and grew up in the Los Angeles area, and then Tennessee’s Rick Barnes. There were numerous reports that UCLA couldn’t reach a deal with Dixon because of a TCU buyout that is reportedly worth more than $8 million.

The Horned Frogs are 68-41 under Dixon, and their 2018 NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018 was only their second since 1987, when Dixon was a TCU point guard. They won the 2017 NIT championship and made it back to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals this year after being one of the first teams left out of the 68-team NCAA field.

“I’ve been doing it a long time and there’s always been rumors to numerous jobs through the years. I think generally because I’m from the West Coast, those have been the ones that have gotten more play over the years,” the 53-year-old Dixon said. “But I’ve always been happy at TCU. … Nothing has changed We’ve loved every minute we have been at TCU, and enjoy Fort Worth.”

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati said that Dixon has never indicated to him that he wanted to be anywhere else.

“TCU was always his dream job,” Donati said Wednesday. “There was never any negotiation about his buyout. It was about whether he wanted to be here at TCU, or potentially go home and be closer to family.”

Donati said “no one should take that personally” that Dixon looked at UCLA.

Dixon said he kept TCU leaders informed throughout the process, including when he was offered the Bruins job. He said UCLA “called again” after he initially said that he couldn’t take it.

Both of his parents are in their 80s, and his sister also still lives in Los Angeles. His wife also has family in that area.

“People know me, know that family is important, so it’s something that I had to look at,” Dixon said. “I decided to stay. That speaks volumes about TCU and my commitment to TCU.”

When Dixon left Pittsburgh after 13 seasons, the Frogs had gone 8-64 in Big 12 games in their first four seasons in the league, and hadn’t had a 20-win season since 2004-05. TCU is 22-32 in conference games in three years under Dixon, and has won at least 21 games overall each season.

“I think we’ve had a big impact on strengthening the league with what we’ve done in terms of basketball,” Dixon said. “One of the things that’s happened is we’ve become the best league by far in the country. Being a part of the best league in the country is a good thing. That’s where we’re at.”

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