By Bret McCormick
It’s back to college for former Winthrop assistant basketball coach Larry Dixon.
Last week he and former Winthrop head coach Randy Peele joined Mark Byington’s new men’s basketball coaching staff at Georgia Southern University. Dixon had been the head coach at York Comprehensive High School the past year, but as of last Thursday he was recruiting high school kids, not coaching them.
“It wasn’t like I was out looking for college jobs,” said Dixon, who coached at the high school level last year because of some personal matters that needed his attention, even though he had college job offers after leaving Winthrop. “Mark presented me with an opportunity that I just couldn’t turn down.”
Dixon worked under Peele for five years at Winthrop, helping the program to two NCAA Tournament appearances. During Byington’s eight years as an assistant coach at College of Charleston, he and Dixon crossed paths on the recruiting trail repeatedly. Byington was hired by Georgia Southern after spending last year at Virginia Tech, and some of his first calls were to Peele and Dixon.
“He (Byington) got the job and called me and told me he wanted to talk to me,” said Dixon. “So, it’s kind of something that just happened.”
It happened really fast too. Dixon said he arrived in Statesboro, Ga., Wednesday, and was already recruiting on Thursday. Unfortunately, York’s boys’ basketball program was left in the dust.
“We were very excited last year when we hired somebody of his caliber, with college experience,” said York athletic director Steve Boyd on Tuesday. “We hate we lost him, but we understand he wanted to get back to college. It’s better for him and his family; it’s his gain and our loss.”
Despite the abrupt departure, Dixon views his time at York as more than a rest-stop.
“It’s truly, truly a blessing,” he said. “I was able to stay in coaching, and also stay around my kids this past year and help them transition a little bit. And now I’m able to get back in college. That’s just God working.”
Now Dixon is getting to work too, something Byington expected from his new wingman.
“When Larry was at Winthrop, I was involved in a lot of recruiting battles with him and have seen first-hand how good he is at recruiting,” Byington told Georgia Southern’s athletic web site. “He will be great for developing our players and helping them maximize their potential.”
Peele is a huge coup for Byington too. With nine seasons of head-coaching experience and three trips to the NCAA tourney during those years, the former Winthrop head man brings a wealth of experience and nous in the seat next to Byington, who only has brief head coaching experience as an interim at Charleston during the final month of the 2011-12 season.
“He excels in coaching the fundamentals, recruiting and skill development,” said Byington, “so I will lean on his knowledge and experience as we build our program.”
Peele has been out of coaching since he was let go by Winthrop after the 2012 season. Former College of Charleston assistant Andrew Wilson also joined the coaching group, which is off to a positive start, according to Dixon.
“The staff chemistry and camaraderie is really good,” he said, “and I think that’s important because a lot of time you spend more time with them than your own family.”
Dixon and Peele arrive at Georgia Southern just as the school is leaving the Southern Conference after this spring and joining the Sun Belt Conference, along with Appalachian State.
“It’s a good time to be at Georgia Southern,” said Dixon. “We’re excited. I think we can have success and Mark’s gonna do a great job of getting things going.”
Amidst a tumultuous two weeks, just getting things going has been difficult though.
“The last 10 days have been, just, crazy; like a whirlwind, a blur,” said Dixon, who was in Charlotte on Monday trying to get his house on the real estate market.
Maybe he can catch his breath this week?
“That ain’t happening,” Dixon said, laughing. “We’ve got five scholarships open, so what is breath?”
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T