Forum Spin Doctor
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Eight months ago, Maggie Dixon was carried around the court at Christl Arena by the cadets after leading the Army women's basketball team to its first Patriot League championship and NCAA tournament appearance. On Sunday, between games of the inaugural Maggie Dixon Classic, the late coach was honored with a simple ceremony on that same court attended by hundreds of cadets from the school she captivated in a seven-month stay.
Dixon died April 6 of arrhythmia, probably caused by an enlarged heart, three weeks after capping her first season as a head coach with the win that captured an academy's and nation's admiration and imagination.
Her brother, Jamie, the men's coach at Pittsburgh, set up the doubleheader in his sister's memory and his fourth-ranked Panthers opened it with an 86-67 victory over Western Michigan.
In the second game, the Army women's team, now coached by Maggie Dixon's former assistant, Dave Magarity, lost 77-41 to No. 7 Ohio State.
In a 20-minute ceremony between games, Maggie Dixon's parents, her sister, Julie Dixon-Silva, and her brother were presented with a ring commemorating the 2005-06 Patriot League championship. Banners honoring that title and Maggie's selection as conference coach of the year were unveiled in the rafters of Christl Arena.
"We are here to honor an amazing woman who taught us to believe in ourselves and each other," said 2nd Lt. Ashley Magnani, one of the co-captains on last season's team.
The banners were uncovered to a standing ovation and the other co-captain, 2nd Lt. Megan Vrable, then struggled through a breaking voice.
"Those banners will be a constant reminder of how she lived her life and motivated others," she said.
The rings then were presented. Jamie Dixon held the box they came in toward his players, who stood applauding on the side of the court.
"I think the emotions became greater once our game was over and we were getting ready for everything that was going to happen, and then seeing the Army team and so many of my family and friends," Dixon said. "My biggest concern was how my parents were going to handle things. It's obviously been tough the last seven months, but they were looking forward to this. They wanted to come back here. This was a big step for all of us."
Dixon spoke to the crowd, letting them know how important West Point had become to his sister.
"She loved every minute she spent here at West Point. She loved the cadets, everything about them," he said. "On behalf of our family, we thank you for all the support. We thank you for taking care of our sister and daughter. We thank you also for having her buried here at West Point. We are truly honored and we know we did the right thing burying her here. We hope in some small way she can serve as a small inspiration for the cadets and players in the future."
Dixon said Madison Square Garden and a corporate sponsor have shown interest in making the Maggie Dixon Classic an annual event in New York featuring the nation's top women's programs.
Jim Dixon, a native of the Bronx who moved to the West Coast to become a screenwriter and raise his family, was asked what the ring meant to him.
"I never wear rings. I always lose them. I don't know what I'll do with it," he said. He took the small brown box out of the pocket of his sports coat, opened it and slid the ring on his finger as his eyes began welling with tears.
"The most important thing is we'll never get her back," he said. "I miss her every day."