Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
COLLEGE PARK--About 45 minutes before game time on Friday night, new Maryland special assistant Juan Dixon was mingling with players on the court during shootaround wearing red shorts, a black and red warmup, and yellow and black Under Armour basketball shoes.
With about half an hour until tip-off, Dixon grabbed one more basketball that was bouncing toward him, launched a three-pointer from the near corner, nailed it, and then walked back into the locker room.
He emerged with the coaching staff before team introductions in completely new attire, like Superman coming out of a phone booth, wearing a dapper light gray suit with a white shirt and deep blue tie.
It might have seemed like a seamless transition from cool to professional for the new assistant before his first college game on the bench, an 89-62 victory over Morgan State at Comcast Center, but head coach Mark Turgeon revealed postgame that exactly how the proverbial sausage was made wasn’t quite as pretty.
“I found out he’s not very good at tying a tie before the game so if you want to rip him a little bit, you can,” Turgeon said with a laugh. “They were trying to get that fixed up right before the game.”
Tie tying ability aside, Dixon took his seat behind Maryland’s bench on Friday night and so began the next chapter of his already long history with the program, the chapter that he hopes will pave the way for a career in coaching at the college level.
As a special assistant, Dixon is barred from formally coaching during the game, so he sat pensively for much of the contest, observing and conversing with staff members around him and rising to join the huddle during timeouts before returning to his seat.
“Juan is an important person here. It’s just good to have him around,” Turgeon said. “I think he was excited and really enjoyed it. I’m not worried about Juan.”
Dixon was formally introduced as the team’s special assistant on Wednesday, but has been around the program for much of the preseason and regular season. He played in the program’s alumni game during Maryland Madness last month.
“I love talking to Juan, picking his brain,” forward Evan Smotrycz said after scoring 19 points in the win. “He always has some insightful things to say so I think the more he’s around the better.”
Dixon’s job as a special assistant will mostly see him planning practices and helping with the team’s film study, as well as mentoring players who come into the program.
“I’m trying to just soak up whatever he says,” Smotrycz said.
After the game, once spectators had cleared out of Comcast Center and the lights had been dimmed, Dixon, assistant coach Bino Ranson and sophomore forward Jake Layman stood talking on the sidelines.
Layman had just dropped a career-high 27 points in the win and Dixon had relaxed from the formalness of the in-game spotlight.
Dixon wore a blue winter hat and had taken off that pesky tie. The top button of his shirt was undone. He shook Layman’s hand and congratulated him before Layman exited through the tunnel.
Dixon picked up a black Maryland backpack and pulled his hat on more snuggly before he said goodbye to the media still working near the court, then he too exited through the tunnel.
And so ended Dixon’s first day on the other side.