The Basketball Podcast: EP266 with David Hixon on Hall of Fame Lessons

RELEASE DATE : 03/05/2023

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, former Amherst College head coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, David Hixon, joins the Basketball Podcast to share lessons and stories from a hall of fame career.

David Hixon, who was head men’s basketball coach at Amherst College for 42 years, was named as one of the 12 inductees in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023. Hixon, an Andover native and former Amherst player, took over as the program’s head coach in 1977, just two years after he graduated college.

Before retiring in 2020, Hixon racked up 826 wins and became just the third coach in NCAA Division III men’s college basketball history to surpass the 800-win mark when he did so in 2018. Hixon coached the Mammoths to two NCAA Division III national championships (2007, ’13), seven Final Four appearances (2004, ’06-08, ’13-14, ’16) and 20 Division III national tournaments.

Hixon was twice named Division III Coach of the Year, the national title years of 2007 and 2013, by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Under Hixon, Amherst College played in 18 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championships from 2001 through 2019 and won eight titles (2001-02, ’05’06, ’12-14, ’19).

David Hixon

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David Hixon Quotes:

“There are a tremendous number of terrific coaches out there, and it goes all the way back into the high school level. Some of the best coaches that I’ve known are high school coaches because they have limited facilities, limited resource, and they get what they get.”

“You have to continually find ways to get better. You have to continually find ways to reach your players, to understand the younger players as they come through . . you want to constantly work at making sure that you’re changing and that you’re doing the best things that you can do. You can’t use the same footprint that you used ten years ago. If you do, then you’re probably going to fall short.”

“It’s got to be a sustaining of focus, energy, and commitment to being excellent. Being excellent is not easy.”

“Ten years later in a job setting, remember what you learned from being a freshman under me, and I promise you it will help you be a freshman again. I do think that you create a culture, and they have to buy into that culture, and that’s hard for kids. All these kids that you recruit have egos. That’s why they’re good.”

“’Feeding’ is a lot of positive input. You get with a kid and you talk to him. It may not be the first day that he opens up to you, but the more your players end up opening up to you and then you back to them, the better relationships you’re going to have, the stronger team chemistry you’re going to have, and the happier career they’re going to have.”

“If you don’t have good practices or do good things in your practice, if you don’t practice with a purpose, . . then you won’t have good games and you shouldn’t expect good games. Anything that happens is going to be random if you don’t do the right things in practice. For me, this is why I like to talk about practice, because it’s not talked about enough.”

“At the very end of my practice plan, when we scrimmage . . I call it possession and go . . the thing about possession and go, I’ve taught something during practice that I want to rehearse and rehearse. So, when we do possession and go, you get the ball and you get to run what we were working on. And as long as you score, you keep the ball . . Now, we’re guaranteed to run that set at least once, but maybe three, four, five times before the ball goes the other way. And I always felt that was a great way to teach and to reinforce the stuff that we’d put in that day.”

“Hopefully there’s more repetition in that than just a scrimmage because sometimes, particularly late in the practice, kids are a little fatigued and it becomes just an up and down . . Conditioning-wise, there’s a time for that and we’ll do some of that. But the repetition and teaching is really important.”

“If you have players smiling, laughing, and with a positive attitude going into a practice, they’re just going to have a better practice. There were times when I went in and chewed them out because they deserved to be chewed out and we started right out doing some really physical, aggressive stuff because we needed to. But that’s few and far between.”

“I do think there’s such a critical piece, call it rote learning . . putting in a template and be very rigid with them until they understand that. Once they understand that, that’s where the freedom starts to grow . . the exceptions have to grow off those other pieces that you’ve put in place, and then it flourishes . . The more your kids can understand and run possibilities, offset plays, the better you’re going to be.”

“Take only what you can teach. If you watch the play but you don’t really understand that play, you’re probably not going to teach it well and you’re not going to get the intention of that play.”

David Hixon Breakdown:

1:00 – Basketball Hall of Fame
5:00 – Best Practices
8:00 – Firm with the Players
10:00 – Love Problem Solving
15:00 – Practice is not a Game
21:30 – Valuing 5-on-5
25:00 – Young Assistant
28:48 – 29:29 – B.I. Immersion ADS
29:30 – Brief Talk
32:00 – Value of Humor
34:00 – Intentional with Drills
37:00 – Value Possibilities
39:00 – Rote memory
41:00 – Shooting into Practice
45:00 – Free Throws
48:00 – Personnel is the key
55:00 – Coach Like Pop

David Hixon Selected Links from the Podcast:

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