Army coach remembered for leadership
A month ago, Army women's basketball coach Maggie Dixon found herself on top of the world. She was headed to her first NCAA tournament in her first season as a head coach against one of the greatest programs in the country, Tennessee.
Life couldn't get any better for the 28-year-old firecracker of a coach, who became the nation's sweetheart through her countless ESPN interviews and stories of the dream season she led.
Last Friday, Dixon was unexpectedly taken, as she died of a heart arrhythmia in a New York hospital.
"Maggie had an infectious personality that rubbed off on everyone," said AU coach Melissa McFerrin, who knew Dixon well, dating back to their days recruiting against one another in the Midwest. "She was a great person, a great coach and a great leader."
McFerrin was an assistant at Minnesota when Dixon held the same position at DePaul. She watched the young coach rise through the ranks. After landing the job at AU, McFerrin enjoyed renewing acquaintances and competition this year with Dixon, who took over at Army just days before the season began.
Dixon took an Army squad that was always in the middle of the pack and transformed it into the regular-season and tournament champions, and helped it to an NCAA berth.
"Army has always been a program that has had a lot of talent, and this year they were able to put it all together, and that was largely thanks to Maggie's influence," McFerrin said.
After a memorial service last week at West Point, N.Y., Dixon's funeral was held Tuesday in her hometown of North Hollywood, Calif. She will be buried at the academy, an honor held for only the most esteemed Cadets, one of whom Dixon quickly became.
Next October, her Cadets will be back - the ones she was supposed to lead for a long time to come, before moving on to a bigger program, bigger aspirations and possibly a national championship. But, minus its star young coach, Army will hit the floor missing her presence, but having her spirit.
The AU team is currently discussing ways it can help the Cadets, whose grieving process has just begun.
For most teams at this time, thoughts of next year's season come into focus. But for Army, thoughts of normalcy and its coach seem to be the goal at this point.
"We know that the day-to-day for the Army team will be a challenge and we're coming together as a team to do anything we can to help them out as they heal from this terrible tragedy," McFerrin said.
Whether life will ever become normal for PL champions, one thing is for sure: Dixon coached with a passion, a fire and an "infectious" smile that electrified those around her.