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Dixon to take over as St. Mary’s coach

Kevin Dixon has coached one St. Mary’s team to a state championship.

He’d like to do it again with another program.

The longtime coach has been chosen to head the boys basketball program, taking over for Tam Vu, who guided the Crusaders for one season but whose contract was not renewed.

Dixon, who last spring led the St. Mary’s girls golf team to the 4A/3A/2A/1A crown in his first season, was Vu’s assistant this past winter.

St. Mary’s athletic director Jamie Young said he has “a tremendous amount of respect for coach Vu,” but that the program “needed a little bit different direction.”

Young cited a desire for continuity in the program, and noted Dixon’s deep roots and coaching experience in the Rogue Valley.

“He’s someone who I think just has the experience and vision for moving forward with the basketball program,” said Young.

Dixon was the head coach of the North Medford girls team from 2008-10 and served in the same role with the Phoenix boys team from 2001-06.

At Phoenix, he was twice named the Skyline Conference coach of the year and led the Pirates to the league championship in 2004.

“I’ve wanted to get back into it and do it again,” said Dixon, who also was an assistant at Southern Oregon University from 1999-2001. “It’s what I love to do. I’ve been coaching year-round, and I’m pretty excited to be at St. Mary’s.”

After 31 years as a teacher, including 22 in the Medford School District, Dixon, 56, recently retired. He plans to continue teaching as substitute next year.

He’s in his 34th year of coaching basketball at various levels, most recently with travel and AAU teams.

“As an educator, which is what he’s been doing for his living,” said Young, “he understands the opportunity and responsibility of coaching, and what it means as far as developing the young men in terms of character and skills that will help them be successful off the court.”

He characterized Dixon as a “gym rat.”

“He loves working with kids and that comes out in everything he does,” said Young. “That’s an attractive quality in a coach. You can’t fake that.”

St. Mary’s has enjoyed recent success in boys basketball, winning the 3A state championship two seasons ago and making the playoffs last year before being eliminated in the first round by eventual champion Dayton.

St. Mary’s was 12-13 overall and 6-2 in the Southern Cascade League, placing second to Cascade Christian.

The Crusaders lose a number of key players — Joe Johnson, Bryce Bramscher, Tyler Danielson, Thys Kuitert — who accounted for much of the team’s height.

As such, Dixon’s team will do things a bit differently than in 2017.

“We’ve got good athletes,” he said. “The thing I like about St. Mary’s is they really promote kids playing three sports. We lost some of our height, but we have pretty good athletes back. We’ll try to use them to get up and down the floor, play motion on offense and man-to-man defense and use our athleticism a little bit.”

Dixon is working on getting his staff together and planning for his summer program.

“Then we’ll get after it,” he said. “I’m excited, enthusiastic and ready to roll.”

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email ttrower@mailtribune.com