A New Zealand Homecoming Of Sorts
-- Almost 19 Years After Leaving New Zealand, USA Coach Jamie Dixon Set To Return --
June 24, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colorado
USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team and University of Pittsburgh head coach coach Jamie Dixon will be making a homecoming of sorts when he and his U.S. team arrive in New Zealand Saturday in advance of playing July 2-12 in the FIBA U19 World Championship for Men.
Dixon, who enjoyed a successful four-year collegiate playing career at Texas Christian University, played two seasons (1989 and 1990) for Hawke's Bay in the New Zealand National Basketball League.
While he closed out his professional playing career in New Zealand, it was while in the The Land of the Long White Cloud that Dixon began coaching the sport.
-After college and after playing a year in the CBA, I went to New Zealand with a friend of mine who had played at Columbia and was from California. He had played down there and I went down to Hawke's Bay which is down in the North Island about four hours south of Auckland,' commented Dixon.
'I played down there for two years, had a great time, great experience. I also taught at two different local high schools and coached a number of basketball teams and that was really the first time I started coaching. I coached a high school team, coached a number of young teams including girls' teams as well, and then organized leagues and camps and really enjoyed that part of it. I was a little more interested in promoting the game and doing it with the young kids and that was probably a foreshadowing of my coaching and getting into that.'
Organized in 1982, the New Zealand National Basketball League plays in the New Zealand winter. The league usually kicks off play at the end of March or in early April and runs until July.
'I remember that we had good players. Each team could have two imports so there were a couple of guys who had NBA experience. I made some great friendships with people from down there that played. John Welch, who's coached for the Nuggets, played down there; Richie McCay who's an assistant coach for Virginia; Tony Bennett played down there, who I didn't know then; but I made a lot of good friends and I've been in contact with a number of people I'll see down there.'
While his playing days in New Zealand marked the end of his professional playing career and marked the start of his very successful coaching career, he has helped pass on the same playing opportunity to some of his own players.
'I've sent a number of players to play in New Zealand, so we'll see some of those guys as well. I know one of the best players plays for the Auckland team, the Auckland Breakers, he's actually on their national team and has been naturalized, Casey Frank. He played for us at Northern Arizona University and I helped him get down there.
'I also signed a kid from New Zealand when I was at Hawaii. I've kept in contact with a number people, coaches, friends, kids I coached, as well over the years, but I've never been able to go back there, it's obviously a little bit of a trip.'
While looking forward to returning to New Zealand, Coach Dixon's catching up with old friends will have to take a backseat to his committment of leading the USA U19 team.
'I'm looking forward to getting down there. I don't know if I'll be able to get down to Hawke's Bay, but I hope I do have that opportunity.'
Dixon, who has 17 years of major NCAA Division I coaching experience, played from 1983-84 through 1986-87 at Texas Christian University, leading the Horned Frogs to Southwest Conference (SWC) titles as a junior and senior. He earned All-SWC honors in 1987 and was an All-SWC Academic performer. He also led the SWC in assists as a senior and earned the Henry Iba Award as MVP of the All-College Tournament. Dixon was inducted into the TCU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.