‘A room of your heroes’: Longtime Amherst College coach Dave Hixon will be enshrined in basketball Hall of Fame

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-05-2023 7:45 PM

Dave Hixon knew he was a Hall of Famer a week ago Monday. He couldn’t say anything about it until the class was officially announced last Saturday.

“This has been a hard week because I’ve had a lot of people asking me,” Hixon said.

When an Adrian Wojnarowski report for ESPN leaked half the class Tuesday (“the big names,” Hixon said), Hixon received messages of condolences telling him, “Sorry coach, maybe next year.”

“How do you answer that?” Hixon wondered with a chuckle.

His phone erupted when the official announcement occurred Saturday. Enshrinement is scheduled for Aug. 12 in Springfield.

The Andover native was announced last for the press conference ahead of the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Final Four behind NBA luminaries including Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker, WNBA champion Becky Hammon and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

There were 250 texts in his queue. Hixon tried to read them as they came in but eventually put his phone away because it became too emotional.

“It’ll take me a long time to answer those,” he said.

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Hixon did send one note to the family of Will Vickers, his father Will Hixon’s longtime assistant at Andover. Vickers’ funeral was Saturday, and Hixon passed along how much Vickers meant to him. He was one of the reasons Hixon attended Amherst in the first place.

“They probably read it right after it was announced,” Hixon said.

When Hixon took his seat next to Pau Gasol, he marveled at his peers. They mentioned their own coaches and how important they were in their careers and lives.

“I’m so impressed with these guys and how they think and talk and what basketball has meant to their lives,” Hixon said. “It does lift you up to that level. Or almost. It does make you feel even more special.”

They all gathered for dinner Friday night in Houston beforehand and met other Hall of Famers for the occasion.

“It was like being in a room of your heroes,” Hixon said. “It was a special occasion and intimidating to be able to speak and share your story.”

Hixon graduated from Amherst in 1975 and took over the men’s basketball program in 1978. He also served at times as an assistant track and women’s soccer coach. Hixon won two national championships and reached seven Final Fours. The two-time Division 3 Coach of the Year accumulated 826 career wins, including 17 against Amherst’s archrival Williams. He left the sidelines after the 2018-19 season to spend more time with his father, Will, then formally retired in April 2020.

Amherst College named the LeFrak Gymnasium floor after him last May.

He’s the first ever Division 3 coach enshrined.

“It was really special,” Hixon said. “Hopefully it’s something we can grow on. It’s a special place, and it’s a tough process to get through.”

Almost as tough as keeping the secret that you got through it.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>