David Hixon ’75 was ready for the call when it came.
But he wasn’t ready for the words he heard.
“I had prepared some comments if I didn’t get in,” says the longtime Amherst men’s basketball coach. “I wanted to make sure I had something classy ready. But I didn’t have anything prepared for being elected.”
And so, Hixon’s response to Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo was simply: “Jerry, can you say that again?”
On April 1, Hixon—who retired from the College in 2020—became the first Division III coach ever elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He will be inducted Aug. 12 with other members of the 2023 Hall of Fame class, among them Dwyane Wade, the shooting guard who won three NBA championships; Gregg Popovich, the veteran NBA coach; and the 1976 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team.
“They are all household names,” Hixon says. “The word that keeps coming to mind—my wife, Mandy, says I need to find a better word for it—is surreal. It is just so humbling. I feel so blessed. You don’t know how you deserve an honor like this.” He says he’s proud to represent Division III in this way.
Hixon coached at Amherst for 42 years, winning two national championships and twice being named Division III Coach of the Year. He compiled a coaching record of 826–293, ranking him 15th in NCAA men’s basketball. His winning percentage of .738 was good for 10th place in NCAA Division III history at the time of his retirement.
“We are thrilled that Dave Hixon has been recognized on the most prominent stage of the sport that he has given so much to,” says President Michael A. Elliott ’92. “It’s an honor for him and an honor for Amherst. It’s also a special day for the generations of players who were coached and educated by this legend.”
Or, in the words of Amherst
athletic director Don Faulstick, it’s “the ultimate pinnacle to such an amazing career.”
In the Hixon era, Amherst participated in the NCAA tournament 20 times and compiled a 43–20 postseason record. Hixon was elected to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2022, the floor at Amherst’s LeFrak Gymnasium was named Hixon Court.
“I remember, in the fall of 1973, myself and some friends were sitting around the dorm at Amherst and someone asked, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?,’” Hixon recalls. “One said doctor and became a doctor, one said working with computers and worked at IBM, one said psychology/psychiatry and ended up working in that field. I said I wanted to be the next men’s basketball coach at Amherst. That’s all I ever wanted.”
Indeed, over the years, Hixon had several opportunities to leave Amherst for higher levels, but he says he could never find a good enough reason to do so.
Now, his legacy includes former players who’ve gone on to their own distinguished coaching careers. One, Kevin Hopkins ’08, head coach of men’s basketball at Muehlenberg College, describes Hixon as “the embodiment of all the best parts of not just Amherst College or the Amherst men’s basketball program but of Division III athletics and the coaching profession in their entireties.”
Another, Matt Goldsmith ’08, is head men’s basketball coach at The College of New Jersey. “It is so exciting,” he says, “that the entire basketball community now knows what we have all known for so long: Dave Hixon is one of the best basketball coaches from any level in the history of the game.”
AP photo by John Amis