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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

From Long Beach to Japan, TCU’s Jamie Dixon and Gonzaga’s Mark Few have connections

March 18, 2023 Updated Sat., March 18, 2023 at 9 p.m.

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon smiles as he recalls past matchups against Mark Few during a news conference Saturday at Ball Arena in Denver.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
TCU head coach Jamie Dixon smiles as he recalls past matchups against Mark Few during a news conference Saturday at Ball Arena in Denver. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

DENVER – When you’ve been in the coaching business for as long as Gonzaga’s Mark Few and TCU’s Jamie Dixon, your paths are bound to cross a few times.

In Long Beach, California, for example. And Okinawa, Japan. And Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament round of 32 when the Zags face the Horned Frogs at Ball Arena.

Their first encounter goes back to when Dixon was trying to break into coaching and Few was working for Dan Fitzgerald at Gonzaga.

“He (Few) was one of the first guys I met,” said Dixon, who is in his seventh season at TCU after 13 at Pittsburgh. “Him and Ben Howland were good friends. They used to talk about fly fishing. They still talk about it all the time.

“It was down at the Long Beach Slam-N-Jam. That’s a long time ago, 30 years ago. More than that, 35 years ago. I remember that and then we’ve just, the Nike (coaches) trips, it’s just kind of this little group that they had a nickname for, but I won’t say it.”

Dixon’s nephew, James Silva, is a manager for GU’s basketball team, led by Few as head coach for the past 24 seasons.

“So that’s a little different, too,” Dixon said. “I just saw him in the hallway.”

Almost three decades later, Gonzaga and Pittsburgh squared off in the Armed Forces Classic in Okinawa to open the 2015-16 season.

The game was called off at halftime with Pitt leading 37-35 due to slippery court conditions inside a fieldhouse on the U.S. Marine Corps base. Numerous players were slipping and sliding on the court in the opening half.

“I hate to say I saw it coming,” Dixon said. “I had coached in Hawaii and so I knew what happens when it rains, the moisture, no air-conditioning. I remember before the game we were talking about it, and I saw them, and I said, ‘Where is the fans?’ You need air going through this thing. And they pointed to this one little (fan) over in the corner, and I said, ‘That’s not going to get it done.’

“But it was a humid day, it was in the morning, I told them what was going to happen and I said you’ve got to wipe the floor and they brought out one little guy with a towel.”

When Dixon watched tape of the first half later, he said he was “so glad we stopped” playing after seeing one of his players fall and suffer a cut on his head.

The Zags’ victory came down the road when then assistant coach Tommy Lloyd squeezed in a recruiting visit to see a promising Japanese youngster named Rui Hachimura.

“Tommy told me that he went and that’s how they got Rui,” Dixon said. “Tommy and I are good friends as well. That’s the story that I remember. We got half a win and they got Rui, so I think they won out on the deal.”

Gonzaga scored another win on the recruiting front in Dixon’s backyard in November 2018 when Drew Timme, a standout at J.J. Pearce High in Richardson, Texas, committed to the Zags.

Dixon was in his first season at TCU, taking over a program that went 2-16 in the Big 12 the year before his arrival.

“We weren’t a great sell at the time,” Dixon said.

“I remember I wasted a lot of days at Pearce High. Got to know the family really well. He was the first guy I really started recruiting as soon as I got there. The maximum number of days you could be there, we were there for two years. I think Mark went once and got it done.”

Timme has become a three-time All-American at Gonzaga and he’s likely at the top of TCU’s scouting report.

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