When Arkansas-Little Rock and UNC-Asheville tip off tonight in Dayton, it will mark the 13th consecutive year that the NCAA Tournament has carried on without TCU. Despite this long absence and the depths to which the program has fallen, Chris Del Conte has given Coach Jim Christian his vote of confidence to continue leading the Frogs.
No doubt that decision will be second-guessed by a large number of Horned Frog faithful. After all, Christian has a record of 38-58 in his three seasons here and the fans have been staying away from Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in droves. When you realize that this team that finished 1-15 this year in Mountain West play will be moving to the Big East in two years, you have to wonder if Jimmy C is the right man for the job.
On the other hand, patience may be something that Christian deserves when you take into account how empty the cupboard was after Neil Dougherty's program-destroying reign finally ended. After it looked like the Frogs might finally be turning a corner this year (remember them beating tournament-bound USC with ease on November 29?), Christian kicked two of the most talented players (Sammy Yeager and Andre Clark) off the team and indefinitely suspended his best player (Tuffy Moss)- essentially killing any shot at the postseason.
I know that we, as fans, all want W's. But doesn't it say something about Jim Christian's character that- in a season where he really needed to turn things around- he didn't compromise his sense of right and wrong just for the sake of his employment? Del Conte obviously thinks so, with this quote in Mac Engel's Saturday article: "Say whatever you want, but that's a guy who did not sell out for just a couple of more wins, and you have to respect that." You've also got to respect the effort that the short-handed Frogs put forth in the conference tournament, beating Wyoming and nearly BYU after a 13-game losing streak that would've made most teams close up shop.
Then again, how much does the fact that Christian's contract runs through the 2014-2015 season weigh on Del Conte's decision? With tickets "selling like the opposite of hotcakes", to use a Galifianakis-ism, and the Mountain West's paltry TV revenue- does Del Conte really want to be paying two basketball coaches for the next couple of seasons? You'll never hear the athletic department admit this, but you have to know that's why Morrison kept Dougherty around as long as he did.
By all accounts, Jim Christian is a terrific guy, and I'd love to see Del Conte's patience pay off in the end. One of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball, Mike Krzyzewski, was allowed to coach himself through some pretty bad struggles in his first few seasons at Duke and who doesn't remember the calls for Gary Patterson to be fired after the 5-6 finish in 2004?
Comparing Christian to GP and Coack K might be unfair, and honestly I don't know if he can turn this thing around- but it's the AD's decision so all we can do now is hope that it's the right one. Or bitch about it, because Lord knows TCU fans aren't shy about doing that. Where do you stand on this- should Christian be axed, or do you agree with Del Conte's patience?