When you’re in this business for a little while, pretty much all of the stories become a bit of a blur over time.
Sure, the names and faces may change, but the general premise of 90 percent of my work is the same on a week-by-week basis. Nine times out of 10, a sports story ends where one team wins and another loses. In most cases, a few players here or there standout and do excellent things to make the outcome go one way or another.
It’s admittedly a lot of monotony and a big challenge in this line of work is coming up with creative angles and ideas to both entertain the readers and also myself.
But of course, the easiest way to stay creative is to cover spontaneous people – men and women who have interesting opinions and aren’t afraid to speak their minds when the situations present themselves.
Luckily, we have several of those personality types in the Tri-parish area, but unfortunately that number dropped by one this week as a coaching legend has made the decision to step away from his craft.
So before I get started, I want to really frame my words in a way that make it really clear and easy for readers to see how I (and the average reporter in the area) feel about Dixon’s departure from coaching.
Here goes. I hope that I’m saying this in the best, most efficient use of words possible: I don’t know that there has ever been a person as easy to cover as outgoing Ellender girls’ basketball coach Kenneth Dixon. And with him gone, the upcoming basketball season will be a little bit harder for myself and other local reporters to bare.
The dude is just an absolutely incredible interview.
Coach Dixon is one of those guys that you can’t talk to for just two or three minutes. When interviewing him, you have to be willing to sacrifice 10, 15 or even 30-plus minutes of your day.
In a deadline-pressed industry like this one, sometimes wordiness is an annoyance to reporters, but with Coach Dixon, it was always worth the time because the coach always had something worthwhile to say.
Firstly, Dixon always speaks his mind. If his team played great, he’ll not hesitate in patting his players on the back and giving them some positive press.
But likewise, if they play poorly, he was never afraid to drop the hammer on his young ladies and tell a reporter how he truly felt. After a loss during the 2012-13 season, Dixon stood on the gym’s floor and blasted his players’ efforts, saying that the Lady Patriots needed an ‘attitude adjustment’ if they wanted to win playoff games.
“We have experienced players, but so far it’s counterproductive because all we’re doing is repeating old mistakes,” the coach said during his postgame rant. “Until we learn that we need to protect the ball on offense and that defense is more than just a rest station to relax, look pretty and let the other team score easy buckets, I think we’re going to struggle. We need an edge. We have no edge. We need an attitude to get ourselves going.”
An honest answer like the one above is gold to reporters in the industry, as 90 percent of the answers that coaches give to us are coach speak hogwash – words they don’t truly mean, but are saying anyway to avoid causing conflict in their locker rooms.
But in addition to his honesty, Dixon was just an all-around interesting guy to listen to and spend time with. Because he’s had so much success over the years, the outgoing Ellender coach always has a story or two to tell about his previous experiences and former players. Because Dixon carries a naturally loud voice and has a good deal of charisma, he always finds a way to tell the stories with humor and/or a bit of an entertaining twist to them.
I remember Coach Dixon pulling me aside during an Ellender girls’ basketball game in the 2010-11 season and asking me for a favor.
“You have your camera with you today, young man?” he asked as I walked into the hall after being summoned.
After showing him that I did have the camera in my possession, Dixon then asked me to snap a photo of four young ladies working in the Lady Patriots’ concession stand – a group of women who have volunteered to help the program for many seasons.
“They never get talked about. They never get recognition,” Dixon said at the time. “So I want you to do that for me because I know it’ll make them feel good and feel appreciated.”
I took the photo, emailed it to Coach Dixon (like he asked me to), and today, it sits in a large frame in the Lady Patriots’ concession stand as a way to honor the volunteers for their hard work.
To me, that’s a really cool part of Ellender athletic history to be a part of. The fact that a coach had the foresight and desire to want to honor volunteer workers in the first place is even better.
But that’s what Coach Dixon is all about. The longtime coach absolutely loved his players, and he seemed to truly enjoy interacting with the people that he encountered on a day-to-day basis.
The Lady Patriots will hire a new coach and he/she will have a great opportunity to take the job and shine, as east Houma annually produces quality basketball talent.
But even if the next coach comes in and wins five state championships (Dixon has four), there will never be an equal in my eyes to Coach Kenneth Dixon.
As a coach, he was elite.
As a person, he was and remains first-class.
And as a person I’ve covered and worked with for four and a half years, he was a pleasure to be around.
Best of luck in whatever future endeavors you may seek, Coach!
I know that on my end, it’s definitely been a blast.