Women's Basketball

Sam Dixon
Sam Dixon
Previous College: Wooster (1979)
Position: Head Coach
When he was 18 years old, Sam Dixon made a pivotal decision in his life. That summer, he worked collegiate basketball camps at Ohio Northern, Michigan, Tennessee, Marshall, and Ohio State, and decided that coaching was to be his profession. His decision that summer has shaped the years since and have led the Peoria, Ill. native to positions in nine states on both the high school and collegiate levels. In April of 2002, Dixon's love of coaching led him to Furman, where he became the eighth head coach in the 34-year history of the women's basketball program. His impact was immediate and in 2002-03 he led the Lady Paladins to a 16-13 overall record and coached Deshara Shealey to the Southern Conference Player of the Year award. In Dixon's first three seasons, Furman posted a winning record every year and did not finish lower than third in the Southern Conference. In addition, his Lady Paladin basketball players racked up 30 Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll citations, including a program-record nine in 2003-04 alone. "Sam was extremely articulate in presenting his vision for the Furman Lady Paladins," said Furman Director of Athletics Gary Clark at the time of Dixon's hiring. "He made it clear that he understood the team's past and present, while setting out concrete plans for the steps he would take to move this program forward. He was very impressive in his understanding of this university and, in particular, of our overall athletic program." Dixon's years as a basketball coach have resulted in a network of associates, friends, and colleagues on both the high school and collegiate level that give the Lady Paladin coach great contacts for recruiting, scheduling, and scouting. In addition, Dixon has tried to take the best characteristics of each coach he has been associated with and implement that coach's philosophy in his own life. He has also borrowed ideas and inspiration from coaches he admires that are both well known and unknown, and mixed those with his personality to develop his own style of coaching. According to Dixon his goal is to be intense, competitive, and aggressive on the court, but relaxed and open off the court. A 1979 physical education graduate of the College of Wooster, Dixon played four years for the Fighting Scots and in 1976 helped the team reach the NCAA South Regional finals. As a student-athlete he earned first-team All-Ohio Athletic Conference accolades in 1979, and was the team's most valuable player. A 1989 inductee into the Wooster College Hall of Fame, Dixon was also named All-Great Lakes Region and earned third team All-America status. Immediately after his graduation from Wooster, Dixon worked one season at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a master's degree in physical education while serving as a graduate assistant coach with the men's basketball program. He completed his formal education from 1995-97, when he earned a doctoral degree in physical education while working as a teaching assistant at the University of New Mexico. It was Dixon's academic background that fueled his interest in Furman's coaching position. "I think Furman is an ideal fit for me because of my background," said Dixon. "I not only have my Ph.D., but I earned my undergraduate degree from a liberal arts school, I have coached at two liberal arts universities, and I think it is an outstanding way to become educated. In addition, Furman is in an area where I am familiar with recruiting, so the combination seems ideal." In the years between his bachelor's degree in '79 and his doctoral degree in '97, Dixon was never far from the sport of basketball. He spent four years (1980-84) as the assistant men's coach at Northern Kentucky, one year (1984-85) as a men's assistant at Kent State, two years as assistant men's coach at Davidson (1985-87), and four years (1987-91) as head men's basketball and golf coach at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Following his tenure at Denison, Dixon was an assistant with the men's program at Northern Illinois for four seasons (1991-95), and in 1997-98, immediately following his doctoral work at New Mexico, he was the boys' basketball coach at Harrison High in Kennesaw, Ga. In 1998-99 Dixon moved into the women's game, accepting a position as assistant coach at the University of Arizona. From there he was hired by longtime head coach Jim Davis at Clemson, and in three years helped the Lady Tigers to a 57-34 overall record, 28-20 conference mark, and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Dixon's success at Clemson mirrored much of his career. During his time at Davidson, the Wildcats of 1985-86 posted a 20-11 overall mark and won the Southern Conference crown and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, while Kent State received a bid to the NIT during Dixon's time there. In fact, during his career, Dixon's men's teams have advanced to an NCAA Tournament and made an NIT appearance. In his four years as a women's assistant coach, all four teams earned berths in the NCAA Tournament, including the 1998-99 Arizona Wildcats, who posted an 18-11 record with a 12-6 mark in the PAC-10. In recent years, he has served as an assistant coach for the USA Basketball U20 and U21 World Championship teams. In the summer of 2006, Dixon helped the U20 team to a victory over previously undefeated Brazil to capture the gold medal at the 2006 FIBA Americas U20 Championship in Mexico City. In 2007, he traveled with the team to Moscow and helped lead them to a second consecutive Gold medal with a victory over Australia. "This is a great feeling," commented Dixon, after the team's victory in 2007. "The kids really played well. They competed every game and as a team we just kept getting better and better. They are a great group of people to work with." Dixon's time with the USA Basketball program has only added to his wealth of experience already acquired. His coaching knowledge, combined with his own impressive athletic and academic background and his passion for the game of basketball combined to put Dr. Sam Dixon at the helm of the Paladin basketball program.