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Juan Dixon is now Coppin State’s head men’s basketball coach

The former University of Maryland star takes the job at an HBCU in his hometown of Baltimore

Juan Dixon took the podium at the Talon Center on the campus of Coppin State University in his hometown of Baltimore to become the university’s third head men’s basketball coach in five years.

It took less than a minute for the tears to start flowing as Dixon thanked his family, Coppin State administration and everyone who gave him an opportunity in the game of basketball. “I tried to get it all out before we came out here today,” said Dixon, to the laughter of the crowd. “What an amazing day. This is a dream come true. I feel like things are coming full circle, I really do.”

Juan Dixon (No. 3) of the University of Maryland Terrapins celebrates with a piece of the net after winning the men’s NCAA national championship game against the Indiana University Hoosiers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on April 1, 2002.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Dixon, a former University of Maryland star, 2002 Final Four Most Outstanding Player and seven-year NBA veteran, will be in his first Division I head basketball coaching job and his first as a collegiate men’s head coach. “My job is to make Coppin [State] one of the highest universities in the state of Maryland,” said Dixon.

Of the previous regime and former players, Dixon said, “It’s not my program, it’s our program.”

He thanked the administration at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) as well for “giving me a chance to coach when I had never worked in women’s basketball.”

Dixon does have experience coaching on the collegiate level. He spent the 2016-17 season as the women’s head basketball coach at UDC. The Firebirds went 3-25 in Dixon’s only season. Before then, he was a special assistant to men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon at his alma mater for three seasons. Under NCAA special assistant restrictions, Dixon was not allowed to coach the players but did some scouting, film breakdown and academic mentoring. Dixon holds a degree from the university in family science.

The Coppin State basketball program has gone through a rough period after almost three decades of excellence under former head coach Ronald “Fang” Mitchell, who left the West Baltimore institution in 2014. Under Mitchell, the Eagles won five Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament titles. Under Michael Grant, who coached the Eagles from 2014 until he was fired in March, the Eagles failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles will return their leading scorers: 6-foot-8 junior forward/center Chas Brown (12.6 points per game) and freshman guard Dejuan Clayton (12.4 points per game). Both are from Maryland, and Brown is from Baltimore. They know about Dixon’s collegiate career and his status as a local high school hero, first at Lake Clifton High School in the city and later at Calvert Hall in Towson.

Dixon thanked Gary Williams, former Maryland head coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, whom he called “the ultimate competitor,” as well as some of his college teammates and his former high school coach at Calvert Hall, Mark Amatucci. “I didn’t read my first book until I got to Calvert Hall, The Catcher in the Rye. Thank you, Coach Amatucci.”

What Dixon lacks in head coaching experience he will make up for with his playing experience, having also played three seasons overseas. “Basketball was the vehicle in my life that allows me to give back to kids like Coach Williams and Coach Amatucci gave to me,” said Dixon. “I’m looking forward to leading our program to being one of the elite programs in the country. We are going to work for everything we get, and it starts today. Watch out for Coppin State University.”