Larry Dixon, a former Winthrop University assistant men's basketball coach, is York Comprehensive High School's new head varsity basketball coach.
The school board voted Tuesday to hire Dixon, who was at Winthrop from 2007 until this year.
“I'm excited, refreshed, ready to get in the gym and get this thing going,” Dixon, 40, told the Herald. “It's an incredible opportunity. I’m very thankful the Lord put this opportunity in front of me.”
After the school board vote, Dixon said he called students on the team to introduce himself and let them know he couldn't wait to start.
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Wednesday afternoon he held the team's first formal practice in preparation for a jamboree game in Columbia on Saturday.
Dixon was chosen from among a dozen candidates, York schools spokeswoman Maria Duncan said.
“We were very pleased at the quality of applications we received,” she said. ‘We felt Larry Dixon was the person that fit our needs and would build the program for our students.”
Dixon also will be director of the district’s Success Academy, a three-year-old program that targets capable high school students on the verge of dropping out due to personal and family challenges.
The 25 students in the program continue their course work and get opportunities for mentoring, job shadowing and summer work before earning a diploma.
Dixon’s passion for helping struggling students succeed and his experience being a mentor made him a great fit for the job, said Audrey Allan, director of secondary services.
“He really is all about the students,” Allan said. “He wants to know what is going to motivate the students. He wants to connect with them. He is going to be a great asset for the program.”
Dixon, who’s been playing ball since he was eight, has been coaching for 16 years.
After graduating from Johnson C. Smith University in 1996, he coached high school boys basketball in Charlotte. He later went on to be an assistant college basketball coach at several schools, including St. Andrews College, S.C. State University, East Carolina University and Winthrop.
He also has been involved with summer basketball camps and clinics.
As coach of the York Cougars, Dixon said he plans to focus on academics and stepping it up on the court.
He plans to keep tabs on players’ classroom attendance and performance and push them in study hall.
“I want to make sure that if they want to go to college, they have that opportunity,” Dixon said. “If I’m involved, they’re going to know it’s important.”
As a team, he wants to develop a “disciplined, up-tempo style.”
“We want to get out on the break,” he said. “But we want to take good shots.
“We’re going to have to play harder.”
Dixon replaces Ali Patton, who resigned last month after allegations surfaced that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student from the masonry course he taught at the district’s Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center.
He faces a criminal charge of “sexual battery” stemming from a state law that bars school employees from having sex with a student. The law defines “sexual battery” as any sexual act that isn’t “for medically recognized treatment or diagnostic purposes.”