James Dickey, whose fast-paced, exciting brand of basketball has resulted in almost 20 wins a season for Red Raider basketball, is in his ninth year as the head coach at Texas Tech University.
Considered by many to be one of the up-and-coming stars in the coaching ranks, Dickey has indeed elevated the Red Raider program. In fact, the success of Dickey’s program has played a critical role in the construction of Texas Tech’s United Spirit Arena, the new home of Red Raider basketball for the 1999-2000 season.
Five of his former players — Cory Carr, Tony Battie, Mark Davis, Darvin Ham and Jason Sasser — have played in the NBA since 1995-96. Battie became the first Red Raider to be selected as a lottery pick in June, 1997, when the All-America center was taken as the fifth pick by the Denver Nuggets.
In the 1998 draft, two-time Big 12 Conference leading scorer Cory Carr was selected in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. Carr’s selection marked a school-record fourth consecutive year Texas Tech has had a player taken in the NBA draft.
Dickey’s Texas Tech teams have amassed a 145-90 overall record. Considering the plight of the program before his arrival (35-79 in four years), the resurgence of the Raiders has been quite revealing. Before he became head coach, Tech endured through four-consecutive losing seasons and was mired in a 13-45 two-year slump.
Dickey has been adorned with a variety of coach-of-the-year honors in his seven years as head coach at Texas Tech. Twice he was the league coaches’ selection as the Southwest Conference Coach of the Year, including the unanimous choice in 1995-96. Dickey has been honored four times for District 7 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He has been named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year in four of his first eight years.
After being picked to finish last in Dickey’s inaugural season, the Red Raiders finished fifth at 6-8 in the league standings and Dickey earned well-deserved honors for his team’s turnaround performance. He was named consensus Southwest Conference Coach of the Year and also was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches District Coach of the Year, which placed him automatically as a nominee for national honors. All-star player and former Red Raider assistant coach Will Flemons was honored as SWC Player of the Year and consensus first team All-SWC.
Dickey’s status grew when the ’92-93 Red Raiders put together an impressive three-game run in the 1993 SWC Post-Season Classic. The ultimate victory came in the championship game as Tech defeated the Houston Cougars 88-76 and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. It marked Tech’s first venture to the NCAAs since 1986. The SWC Post-Season Classic title marked the fourth such crown in school history. Only in his second year, Dickey had won the championship quicker than any previous coach.
Dickey branded more success on the Red Raider program when Texas Tech finished 17-11 in 1993-94. Tech’s 16-10 regular-season mark and the 10-4 league record were the best by a Texas Tech team since the 1985 squad won the SWC crown.
A year later, the 1994-95 Red Raiders climbed the national ladder by winning their first league crown in 10 years. A 20-10 mark gave Tech a 20-win season for the first time since 1985 and the Red Raiders made their second post-season appearance in three years, albeit in the NIT rather than the NCAA tournament. That disappointment resulted in major motivation for the 1995-96 squad, and with all but two players returning, led to Tech’s record-breaking 30-2 campaign.
During the 1995-96 season, his squad won a school-record 30 games (18-0 in SWC), swept through the final Southwest Conference regular season and Dr Pepper SWC Post-Season Classic and lost only two games on the court during the season. Texas Tech advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in the program’s history — taking national power North Carolina and a backboard down along the way. Darvin Ham’s electrifying backboard-smashing dunk graced the cover of Sports Illustrated after the memorable win over the Tar Heels. It took Georgetown and Allen Iverson to stop Tech’s 23-game winning streak.
In 1995-96, the Red Raiders jumped into the Top 10 for the first time in school history, winding up No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and 10th according to the CNN/USA Today version. Dickey’s team was as high as seventh during the campaign.
His teams have also been tough in regular-season tournament play. In his eight seasons at the controls, the Red Raiders have entered eight regular-season tournaments. They have compiled a mark of 11-6 in those contests and have brought home three tourney titles.
He first got into coaching when he joined the staff at Harding College in Searcy, Ark., for the 1976-77 season. He earned his master’s degree during that stint with the Bison program.
From there, Dickey accepted his first head coaching job, taking the reins at the local high school, Harding Academy. His first step into the collegiate ranks was a return engagement to his alma mater at Central Arkansas. He was an assistant in the Bears’ program for two seasons, helping the school to an overall record of 33-29.
Following the ’81 season at Central, Dickey accepted an offer from Eddie Sutton to join the Arkansas Razorbacks staff. Dickey worked at Arkansas for four seasons and helped lead the Razorbacks to a cumulative mark of 96-30. The Hogs put together four-straight NCAA appearances and won the 1982 SWC regular season and post-season titles.
Sutton accepted the head coaching job at Kentucky after the 1984-85 campaign, and Dickey also made the move to Lexington. The duo helped lead the Wildcats to an overall record of 90-40 in the next four seasons. Kentucky went to the NCAA Tournament three times during that span.
He got his first collegiate head coaching opportunity when legendary Tech coach Gerald Myers stepped down from coaching after the ’90-91 campaign. Dickey was named Tech’s 11th head coach on April 10, 1991, after serving as an assistant for a season.
Away from the players and coaching staff, Dickey does not have to look far to talk hoops. His wife — the former Bettye Fiscus of Wynne, Ark., — was a standout performer for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks. The two met when Dickey was coaching at Arkansas.
The Dickeys have an 11-year-old daughter, Lauren Brooks, who is in sixth grade, and a three-year-old son, Jared Allen. DICKEY VS. THE OPPOSITION