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Army women's basketball coach dead at 28 (4-7-06)

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) -- Coach Maggie Dixon, who at age 28 led the Army women's basketball team last month to its first NCAA tournament berth, died after suffering heart arrhythmia.

Dixon died Thursday night at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., U.S. Military Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Kent Cassella said. A memorial service was scheduled for Friday afternoon at West Point.

Dixon was hospitalized in critical condition after suffering an "arrhythmic episode to her heart" Wednesday at the school, her older brother, Pittsburgh men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon said Thursday.

"Maggie touched so many people beyond basketball," Jamie Dixon said in a subsequent statement released Friday by the University of Pittsburgh. "Our family has received an outpouring of sympathy from across the country and we are deeply appreciative. As her older brother I know she looked up to me. But I always looked up to her, too, and it's obvious that a lot of other people did as well."

Dixon had said his sister collapsed and was taken to the intensive care unit of Westchester Medical Center.

"She ... went to the house of a friend for afternoon tea where she said she wasn't feeling good and she collapsed," said Dixon, who read a prepared statement from the hospital on Thursday.

He said he had breakfast with his sister earlier Wednesday and that she had apparently been feeling well.

Jim O'Connell, a spokesman for the Westchester County medical examiner's office, said an autopsy was scheduled for Friday.

Army gave Dixon her first head coaching job last October. Six months later, she led the team to its first bid in the women's field. The rookie coach's accomplishment gained extra attention because her brother led the Panthers to the men's tournament at the same time.

The Dixons are believed to be the first brother and sister to coach in the NCAA tournament in the same year. Army lost 102-54 to No. 6 Tennessee in the first round.

"I just loved the energy that Coach brought to practice every day and the way she never gave up on us, always believed in us," guard Cara Enright said. "She would tell us to 'Use what you've learned here at the academy and apply it to basketball."'

Members of her team were with Dixon's family members at her bedside Thursday.

West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. William Lennox Jr. said the entire community was heartbroken by her death.

"From the time Maggie arrived here, her enthusiastic 'no limits' approach earned her the respect and love of everyone," he said.

The North Hollywood, Calif., native had hoped to play in the WNBA after graduating in 1999 from the University of San Diego. But the Los Angeles Sparks cut her after a tryout in May 2000. She went into coaching with encouragement from her brother.

"He said, 'If you want to do this coaching thing, do something drastic,"' Dixon told The Associated Press last month. "That's what I did."

She held a number of positions under DePaul coach Doug Bruno after walking into his office and introducing herself. She eventually became his top assistant in May 2004.
The New York Times ran a feature piece on Dixon in their March 15th edition. It's truly sad to see such a promising life cut so tragically short.
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