In the summer of 2014, LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers with one simple phrase consisting of three words.
With that, a firestorm ensued; complete with magazine articles, primetime interviews, and an entire city scrambling to re-buy their previously burnt No. 23 jerseys.
On Saturday, another basketball star decided to ‘come home’ — albeit with much less fanfare — as former Maryland star Juan Dixon accepted the head coaching job at Coppin State in Baltimore.
Not a surprising move by any stretch, especially when you follow his career arc.
Dixon was born and raised in Baltimore, before starring at Calvert Hall College High School in nearby Towson. Naturally, the 6-foot-3 point guard chose to continue his career at the University of Maryland and eventually became the school's all-time leading scorer. In his senior year, Dixon averaged 20.4 points per game on the last Terrapin team (2001-02) to win a National Championship.
With his stock rising, Dixon’s hometown-NBA team, the Washington Wizards, selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft.
Although he was never able to achieve success like he did at Maryland, Dixon did carve out a nice career in the NBA. In seven seasons, Dixon ended up playing 436 games and averaged 8.4 points per game. Ironically, he was able to start and end his career right at home — playing his first three seasons in Washington before returning for his final year in 2008-09.
As a coach, Dixon began his career where he cut his teeth as a player, the University of Maryland. Current head coach Mark Turgeon brought him on as a special assistant in 2013, staying with the team until the summer of 2016.
Juan Dixon is DMV basketball and his hiring can only help a struggling Coppin State program.
The Coppin State Eagles have made the NCAA Tournament just four times in their 32-year Division-1 history — the last appearance being in 2007-08. In their last five seasons, they haven’t eclipsed the 12-win mark and are just 45-117.
Dixon will be taking over for Michael Grant, the Eagles’ coach for the last three years. Grant won just 25 games during his tenure and never amassed more than nine wins in a single season.
One could only imagine that the move will drastically improve Coppin State’s recruiting endeavors. After all, Coppin State isn’t exactly a household name in college athletics.
By attaching a former-NBA player and local hero to the program, the school will actually have something to sell to recruits when they go out on visits. Being able to offer student-athletes the opportunity to learn the game from someone who did it at the highest level is a serious advantage and one that doesn’t come around every day.
Throughout his basketball life, Dixon has made it clear that he actually cares about the area and its basketball scene. Combine that with the fact that this is his first Division-1 head coaching job, and I’m sure you will get an ambitious leader willing to put every ounce of effort towards winning.
Making Coppin State respectable won’t be easy, but Dixon’s connections and love for the area actually give them a chance.