In the aftermath of Pittsburgh's 65-59 victory over Villanova Monday night, all of the small things within the game -- the bits and pieces only coaches see -- are overlooked.
No one misses talking about them more than Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon. He can banter with the media about the final stretch run at the Wachovia Center Monday night or delve into the textbook execution of a high pick and roll.
But it's just not the same. Not without Maggie.
Inquirer columnist David Aldridge wrote with precision and power in a Tuesday morning column, detailing how hard it is for a brother to lose his sister. His hero. His best friend. All in one sudden, unexpected blink of an eye.
It was the morning of April 6th, 2006, the day Jamie Dixon's life forever changed. And we at The Phanatic covered the horrific event in a column the very next day.
In honor of Jamie Dixon's return to Philadelphia, and in remembrance of his sister, former Army women's head coach Maggie, a reprint of Jared Trexler's column is found below:
I never met Maggie Dixon.
After all, I'm just a young journalist right out of college. I'm only 23 years old. That's the scary thing.
Dixon was a vibrant basketball mind who had just guided Army to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Her brother Jamie, the head coach at Pittsburgh, also led his Panthers to another tournament bid.
March Madness had become a family affair. A celebration of hard work had culminated with hugs between a family bonded by basketball.
Despite the Cadets' first-round defeat to Tennessee and Pittsburgh's second- round upset loss to Bradley, the Dixon family was on top of the world.
Until it all came crashing down.
Maggie was rushed to Westchester Medical Center on Wednesday after suffering an arrhythmia heart episode. She died Thursday after spending about a day in critical condition. She was only 28.
"Her joy in coaching these young women made them believe in themselves and depend on each other," said Army athletic director Kevin Anderson. "Her guidance not only helped them excel here, it will help them become better, more compassionate leaders."
Those are generous words. Yet, they don't bring Maggie back. Flowers, cards, tears and condolences will not place Maggie in front of her family and friends again.
Her sudden death has absolutely nothing to do with sports. This just happens to be an impassioned plea found on a sports website. I don't plan on discussing her overall record or the bright coaching future she had.
The tragedy has everything to do with life.
Cadets ready themselves on a daily basis for bad news. Friends and classmates are fighting a war in the Middle East, spending every day one bullet away from death. Not that it is ever expected, but families understand the dangers of loved ones restoring peace in the Persian Gulf.
This came without warning. Without an immediate explanation. It makes even those who didn't know Maggie question life's plan. WHY. WHY. WHY. They don't have question marks because we already know the answers.
There aren't any.
Maggie's death will be grieved in the public spotlight because of who she was. However, every single day people who never got the chance to dribble a ball, putt for birdie, get married or take vacations sadly pass away. It is never fair. It is never easy. But a lesson in life always comes out of death.
It seems simple enough, but most people get too caught up in the rigors of the daily grind to ever truly embrace life. We should all enjoy special moments with family and friends. Always take the opportunity to tell loved ones how much they mean to us. It may be the last time. No one ever really knows.
The wounds of Maggie's death may never truly heal. There is no need to ask the Dixon family for a quote to fill this space. They are grieving. And we all already know how they feel. The next several months, probably even the next several years, will be a day-by-day recovery period for this basketball family. Yet, if they remember the embrace in happiness they all shared due to this season's success, perhaps the embrace in sadness will be just a little easier in the long run.
We celebrated the joys of human existence during the NCAA Tournament only to remember its fleeting nature in this one tragic event.