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‘Down and back’

Longtime CHS basketball assistant ‘Coach Craig’ leaves a legacy after his death at age 59

There is always “that” assistant coach.

It doesn’t matter what sport — be it football, baseball, hockey, volleyball, basketball. There is always that one coach who is steady, calm, dependable, who can read a team’s mood, who is a steady influence for a head coach.

Craig Jamon Dixon was “that” coach.

Dixon died peacefully in his sleep Saturday, June 25, 2022. He was 59 years old.

“He was an assistant with Tonya Snyder when I came back to Clinton High School, so we were assistants together,” said Alicia Phillips, head girls basketball coach at Clinton High School. “He was my assistant for seven years.”

Dixon was a familiar figure on the sidelines for Dragon basketball fans. He was an assistant with Don Lockard’s boys team during its 2004 run to the state tournament. His son, Jordan, was a star on that team.

“Jordan was a year older than I was in high school,” Phillips said. “That’s how I first got to know Coach Craig and his family.

“He was a gentle coach. I never saw him yell,” she said. “He was encouraging to the kids, he’d take them and do one-on-one drills during practices.”

And “Coach Craig” could read a team. He had a sense of when to buckle down a little.

“We’d be in the middle of practice and he’d stop it, tell the kids to, ‘Down and back,’” Phillips said.

That simple conditioning technique not only delivered physical endurance, but it brought focus back to the squads.

Phillips said the team members were shocked when they heard of Dixon’s death.

“It’s tough for them right now,” she said. “It’s really tough.

“You have a favorite, and he was the favorite.”

Clinton Mayor Scott Burton knew Dixon not just as a friend, but as an influence in his daughter, Sarah’s, basketball growth.

Sarah Burton signed scholarship papers with the University of Virginia-Wise last fall.

“I believe Sarah was so blessed to have Craig as a coach during her years playing basketball for the Dragons,” Burton said.

“I know Craig made Sarah a better player and also a better person.

“He will be missed.”

Dixon was also a favorite with media covering the teams he coached.

He would smile, then nod or wink during a game.

He made time for the media and always gave credit to the head coach and the players.

“I just liked the way he interacted with you,” said Richard Evans, who covered the Dragons for many years. “He always put the team first when he spoke. He was honest with you.”

Jim Harris, WYSH Radio’s longtime basketball and football “Voice of the Dragons,” knew Dixon well.

He posted on the radio station’s website following Dixon’s death:

“Craig Dixon was a genuinely good guy and a genuinely good man. We shared a love of basketball, especially CHS basketball, but Craig and I bonded over our love for our respective families and bragging to one another about what our kids were doing this week to make us proud.

“Craig loved his players like they were his own, too, and you could tell the feeling was mutual. To know Craig Dixon was to love Craig Dixon,” Harris said.

“I will miss catching up before games at home and on the road. I will miss his standing in for Coach Phillips for the halftime interviews on game nights. I will miss the glimmer in his eye when he talked about his basketball, his kids, his grandkids, and anything else he was passionate about. Simply put, I will miss my friend.”

A scholarship fund has been established.

The family asks in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the Craig Dixon Memorial Scholarship Fund.

You can mail checks to Clinton High School, 425 Dragon Drive, Clinton TN 37716, with “Coach Dixon” on the memo line.

Craig Jamon Dixon was laid to rest last Saturday.