Lonny Baxter: ‘Would Be Great To See’ Juan Dixon As Next Maryland Men’s Basketball HC

Ever since early December, the rumors about who will be the next head men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland have been swirling around the college hoops world.

Former Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon and the school decided to part ways in early December. Former Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning, who signed on to be an assistant under Turgeon ahead of the 2021-22 season, was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season.

Providence’s Ed Cooley, Alabama’s Nate Oats and Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard are a few names that have been mentioned as great fits to lead the Terrapins.

Lonny Baxter, the Maryland big man from 1998-2002 and one of the stars on the 2002 national championship team, believes former teammate and current Coppin State head coach Juan Dixon would be a great fit to lead their alma mater.

“Of course,” Baxter said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 28 when asked about whether Dixon could succeed as the head coach at Maryland. “Juan was on Turgeon’s staff [from 2013-2016]. He knows the program, and everybody loves Juan. I think he would be great for that job. Coming back to his alma mater, where it all started, it would just be something else for the history books and to write about. Juan is that type of person. He’s very charismatic, he has the drive, he has the energy and passion for it, so it would be great to see him as the head coach at Maryland.”

Dixon is one of the best basketball players in Maryland history. He was an integral piece to that 2002 national championship team, earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player and ACC Player of the Year honors in 2002. Dixon is also the leading scorer in program history (2,269 points).

Dixon has led Coppin to a 41-107 record since taking over the job in 2017, but he led the Eagles to a MEAC Northern Division regular-season championship in 2021. Coppin’s unattractive record is due to a brutal nonconference schedule, as the Eagles play a number of potential NCAA Tournament teams on the road every year to help fund the athletic department.

Baxter was not surprised to see Dixon get into coaching.

“He loves the game very much and with his gifts, he’s great at coaching,” Baxter said. “I remember when he was on Turgeon’s staff to start out with and he’s a great student of the game. Now he’s passing his knowledge on to the kids that he’s coaching and his own kids as well, so no, I’m not surprised at all.”

Even on that championship team, Dixon’s leadership resembled that of a coach, according to Baxter.

“Juan has that type of leadership,” Baxter said. “He’s just driven, he’s very relentless, he has a great passion for it, so yeah, [Maryland] is where he belongs as a head coach.”

Baxter is not worried about the recent struggles of the Maryland basketball program. The Terps have not made it to an Elite Eight since their 2002 title run and have been to the Sweet 16 just twice since then. Can Maryland still win national championships?

“Of course they can, and I believe that they will,” Baxter said. “It’s just a matter of time to get things turned back around, but I know that it will happen sooner or later. Like I said, I’m just waiting to see what happens, letting the process play out and then just going from there.”

Dixon and Baxter are both from the area. Dixon is from Baltimore and Baxter is from Silver Spring, Md. Having a coach at Maryland who is from the area could help immensely with recruiting and Dixon checks that box. In addition to the plethora of high-end talent in the DMV, there are players like Dixon and Baxter — guys who aren’t four- or five-star recruits but could help lead a team to a championship.

The 2002 Maryland basketball team recently came back to College Park, Md., for a reunion as part of the Terps’ game against Ohio State Feb. 27. The school celebrated its achievement of winning the national championship 20 years ago, and the team was acknowledged during the game. Maryland beat Ohio State, 75-60.

“Our team wasn’t a bunch of highly sought-after players. We didn’t have any McDonald’s All-Americans. We all pretty much came in as unknowns and we left as national champions, and that’s something that’ll live with us forever,” Baxter said. “I just can’t say enough about the university, the fans, [Gary] Williams, my teammates, what all of them mean to me and [the reunion] was just a reminder of the special unit that we had.”

For more from Baxter, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics