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Vol. 44, No. 1 • November 2006 • .pdf version
Jamie Dixon has one vote for USBWA's Most Courageous
By ANDY KATZ / ESPN
Sadly, the season is on the verge of beginning and there are already too many candidates for the most courageous award.
There are five members of the Duquesne basketball team – Sam Ashaolu, Stuard Baldonado, Kojo Mensah, Shawn James and Aaron Jackson – who were shot after reportedly walking away from a disagreement after a school dance. All of them could be candidates for the United States Basketball Writers Association's most cherished award in March. So, too, could the entire team as it deals with the mental and physical anguish of being shot at and the recovery that will unfold over the course of the season.
The trauma that is ongoing for players at Georgia, who are dealing with the loss of their teammate Kevin Brophy after he was killed in an automobile accident shouldn't be forgotten.
And, most recently, the tragic death of Toledo's Haris Charalambous after a workout will certainly linger in the minds of the Rockets' players throughout the course of the season.
But there is still one person, whom to me, exhibits courage on a daily basis for being able to forge ahead. The voting hasn't even begun, the candidates aren't even formally announced, and still, I can see no one else that should deserve this award, and this honor, more than Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.
Dixon is still dealing with the day-to-day grieving process of losing his sister, Army women's coach Maggie Dixon, last April to a heart ailment.
The two Dixons were incredibly close. A number of us in the organization have written about Maggie and how her life touched those at Army and men and women in the sport. I'm not sure I've ever been as traumatized by the death of someone I knew, to some extent covered, as when Maggie suddenly died. As I have written for ESPN.com, I saw Maggie and Jamie less than a week before she died while at the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Her shocking death at age 28 is still hard to fathom. I have seen Jamie a few times since, and talked to him countless times in the months since her passing. Jamie has worked tirelessly to keep her memory alive and wanted to ensure there would be an event in her memory. That's why he didn't care who Pitt was playing at West Point on Nov. 12 as long as he got a game for Maggie's memory. His good friend Steve Hawkins of Western Michigan agreed to be the opponent in a doubleheader at West Point with the Army women's team going against Ohio State in the inaugural Maggie Dixon Classic.
There is so much more Dixon is doing that isn't public, notably continuing to be the glue for his immediate family, parents and sister.
If this wasn't enough to wear on a person's mind, Jamie had to deal with the tragic death of a cousin, John Jackson, of a heart attack at only 43 in June.
You see, Jamie is carrying more emotional trauma than most coaches, or players, will this season. It's not a contest. It's a fact. It doesn't matter what Pitt does this season. Sure, they are expected to compete for the Big East title, possibly the Final Four. The games, the practices, and the day-to-day rigors of being a basketball coach, as well as being with his wife and two children, can help Jamie deal with the loss of his sister, maybe his closest friend.
And to do all that takes courage. He is still leading a group of young men on a basketball team. He has been courageous throughout this entire process, the rock of the family, the face of the tragedy for the world to see, hear, and watch him naturally tear while dealing with such heavy loss.
These are shoes no one should have to wear. But Jamie had no choice. And he hasn't quit, given up or even once felt sorry for himself. He has forged on like no other, carrying her memory with him on a daily, maybe at times, hourly basis.
And he, and Maggie, should be honored.
My vote is in before the discussion even begins. Jamie Dixon is the most courageous person going through the 2006-07 basketball season.
The tragedy of this is he must be courageous beyond one season as he tries to get over such a painful loss.
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