Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
The University of Maryland has shuffled its coaching staff one day before Thanksgiving, bringing former star point guard Juan Dixon on as a special assistant, the program announced in a release on Wednesday morning.
The school has also accepted the resignation of assistant Dalonte Hill, who had taken a leave of absence after a DUI arrest last month, and promoted director of basketball operations Dustin Clark to fill his spot on the bench. Clark had been performing those duties in an unofficial role during games for the team while Hill was on a leave of absence.
Head coach Mark Turgeon said on a conference call Wednesday that the move had been in the works for almost six months and that he knew he was going to hire Dixon for five or six weeks.
"As far as coaching, this process started many years ago while playing…I realized that after my basketball career, I wanted to be a coach someday," Dixon said on a conference call Wednesday. "Coach Turgeon is giving me an opportunity here at the University of Maryland.”
Two major factors sealed the decision to bring Dixon on.
“It was him convincing me that his playing days were done and that he really wanted to coach," Turgeon said, recalling conversations between the two. "'You sure you don’t want to do the NBA?' 'I want to be at Maryland, I want to be at Maryland.'"
He also needed to get his undergraduate degree, which he is "one exam away" from achieving, he says. That will earn Maryland an all-important academic progress rate point with the NCAA. Dixon now joins the staff just a few weeks after he returned to College Park for the Maryland Alumni Game during Midnight Madness festivities at Cole Field House.
"I think he’ll be more respected in the business if he starts on the low end and works his way up," Turgeon said. "Juan wants to be a head coach in college basketball some day so he has to learn all phases of it."
Turgeon points to current Tulsa head coach Danny Manning as an example of Dixon's possible path to a head coaching job, having started from the lowest ranks after starring as a player. Among his duties will be administrative tasks, as well as game planning, practice planning, and strategizing. But there's one major area where he is not allowed to help.
"He's not allowed to coach on the floor," Turgeon said. "If you know Juan, that’ll be the toughest part for him."
In the process of making his transition to coaching, Dixon said he consulted his former college coach, Maryland legend Gary Williams.
"Coach Williams has definitely helped me along the way," Dixon said. "He has taken phone calls from me. He has given me calls in the past. I’m extremely fortunate to build a relationship with Coach Williams in the past. It all started with him, giving me the opportunity to play there."
Maryland faces Morgan State on Friday at 6 p.m. at Comcast Center, the team's first game since returning from the Virgin Islands with a tournament victory at Paradise Jam.
"He convinced me. You guys know Juan," Turgeon said. "You come off a big tournament victory and add Juan Dixon to your staff, it’s a pretty exciting time for us."